Friday, November 6, 2009

The Light at the Lightner Museum, Part I

Alex had been telling me we should go to the Lightner Museum during our many trips to St Augustine but some how we never seemed to get around to doing it. So this last weekend when we were at a loss for something to do, the subject came up and this time we decided to go. As always, click on each picture for a better view.

Before you visit the Lightner you have to understand it's history. All of the pieces were created during what would be classed as the Victorian period but really it is a celebration of what is called the Gilded Age in America. This was the period of the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, and men such as J. P. Morgan who were financial tycoons who collected great wealth due to the birth of the industrial revolution; and used that wealth to search all over the world for art and objects to outdo one another. Social competition was fierce and one-upmanship was the order of the day. They collected from everywhere but seemed to prefer France. For the literary among you, this was the time of Edith Wharton and "old money".

Living in Florida I have nothing against "The Mouse" but walking into the Lightner you feel like Alice in Wonderland or at least can understand how she felt. Each corridor invites you to a place that truly seems magical. The facility serves a two part function of City Hall and Museum.

The garden is soooo inviting!

and the little pond is loaded with Koi that are a multitude of colors.

From the moment you get off the elevator on the third floor (which is the beginning of the self tour) you realize just how wonderous and huge the place is.

And there are magnificent things that fill every corner of the huge hall, like this Mahogany Vase...

Or this 1842 vase from St Petersburg, Russia...

Or this green vase that was such a deep green the photo does not do justice to the dept of the color.

This desk is said to have belonged to Louis Bonaparte who was appointed King of Holland by his brother Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806. I particularly like this shot because if you look closely you can see both me and Alex giving it the full photo treatment.

There is an entire floor dedicated to different types of glass that I will develop more in the second blog. But, each of these pieces is fabulously beautiful. This vase and the one below were created in Nancy, France.

There are some American artisans among them. Some are very delicate pieces like these produced in Connecticut...

and some strangely fascinating, like this chair that highlights the Easterners love of the western frontier.

This recreated parlor screams wealth but also illustrates the coldness that comes across in Edith Wharton's novels as she describes the stiffness of high society in "Old New York."

I saw this piece from across the balcony and thought it was an oil painting, but was pleasantly shocked to learn on closer inspection it is a collage of cigar bands. I took a close up just so you would see I was not joking!

Some things are timeless, and I marveled at the haunting beauty of this photo taken in 1910 of a camel driver.

This shot is somewhat ordinary in relation to some of the other things featured, but I just liked the way the shot came out.

And finally Alex' favorite... the shrunken head. He ran to it like a five year old school boy on a field trip. What turn of the century household would be complete without one!

I have to admit there is so much to see and the Director of the facility calls it Florida's Smithsonian. I took over 300 pictures and still did not capture everything (I know that because Alex had several shots I did not get) and decided to do a two part feature just to give you the full tour.


  1. Oh, I can see you in side the Louis Bonaparte's Desk...And then What are you doing over there ? Thanks so Beautiful pictures...

  2. No More,

    You passed the eye test! I was trying to get the shot just right. And thanks on the pictures.

  3. A fabulous place - and a great post ! I decidedly want to visit St Augustine ! Thanks Cherrie.
    (A pity we can't enlarge the picture of you and Alex reflected in/"through the looking-glass"...)

  4. JLBO

    It truly is an amazing place and sits right in the middle of downtown St Augustine. I think you would love St Augustine because it is a small city with a lot crammed into the spot and definitely has an old world European feel. Alex and I have met a lot of European on our travels there...

  5. Beautiful. I like specially the orange fish :-) A very nice picture. It's relaxing.

    Cherrie, I tryed send you the draw of your father's hands, but I cannot find your email. Then I left it in my blog with a link to your website. I hope you like it :-) A kiss.