Villa Zorayda

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Villa Zorayda
St. Augustine, Florida 4.JPG
Villa Zorayda is located in Florida
Villa Zorayda
Location St. Augustine, Florida
Coordinates 29°53′30″N 81°18′54.5″W / 29.89167°N 81.315139°W / 29.89167; -81.315139Coordinates: 29°53′30″N 81°18′54.5″W / 29.89167°N 81.315139°W / 29.89167; -81.315139
Architect Franklin W. Smith
Architectural style Moorish Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 93001002[1]
Added to NRHP September 23, 1993
St. Augustine, Florida 3.JPG

Villa Zorayda (also known as the Zorayda Castle) is a house at 83 King Street in St. Augustine, Florida.[2] It was inspired by the 12th-century Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. It was built by the eccentric Boston millionaire Franklin W. Smith in 1883 as his private home in St. Augustine, Florida, United States. On September 23, 1993, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It is owned by former St. Augustine mayor and local real estate investor Edward Mussallem (and family).

Franklin W. Smith was an amateur architect[3] and pioneer experimenter in poured concrete construction. His winter home, Villa Zorayda, was the first residence built in the Moorish Revival style in Florida.[4] His concrete building material and method was adopted by Henry Morrison Flagler, a Standard Oil partner and Florida developer, for his nearby hotels and churches on an even grander scale. Villa Zorayda could also be considered the first example of fantasy architecture in Florida, and in some ways the progenitor of Disney World.[attribution needed] Smith was an authentic character of Victorian America who deserves to be more widely known.[neutrality is disputed] He was an early member of the Republican Party, and danced with his wife at Abraham Lincoln's inaugural ball in 1861[attribution needed]. He was also a founder of the Boston YMCA, and was involved in many reform efforts and schemes for public improvement in the course of his long life. He is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Just one block east of Villa Zorayda is the largest building Smith constructed in St. Augustine, the Casa Monica Hotel (later purchased by Henry Flagler and renamed the Cordova Hotel).

The villa contains luxurious interior details, including most notably cast plaster work matching that of the Alhambra in Spain, plus tropical hardwood furniture and the "Sultans Den" which includes a 2,300 year-old rug made from woven cat fur.[5] One of the more notable features of the building is the windows. Each window is a different shape and size because, according to superstition, with such windows the spirits could leave the house but would have trouble finding their way back in.[6] Over the years, this unique building has been used as a home, a speakeasy and a movie set.[7]

The building underwent renovations beginning in 2003 and reopened to the public in 2008.[8] Audio tours are available in English, Spanish, and French.[9]


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