Villa Zorayda

At 83 King Street stands the Villa Zorayda Museum. This museum was once Franklin W. Smith’s winter home built with layers of poured concrete coquina in 1883. Smith was from Boston and had made his fortune as a hardware merchant. Smith based the design of his home off of the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain (at one time the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain).

A postcard of Villa Zorayda seen from King Street in St. Augustine, Florida.
Postcard of Villa Zorayda

The Villa Zorayda was one of the first grand structures that used Moorish-style architecture in St. Augustine, marking a trend in Gilded Era structures in town. Smith also built the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine (which Henry Flagler shortly thereafter purchased and renamed the Cordova). Flagler adopted the poured concrete coquina building technique when constructing the Ponce de Leon and Alcazar Hotels nearby.

Around 1903, Smith’s home turned into the Zorayda Club, where patrons could dance, dine, and socialize. Ten years later, Abraham Mussallem, an immigrant from Lebanon, bought the Club and Smith’s collection within it. Abraham Mussallem turned the Club into a speakeasy and a casino in the 1920s. Around the end of the decade, Abraham, his wife, Olga and their children used the Villa Zorayda as their private residence.

A postcard of the Villa Zorayda in 1970 with women in costumes in front, looking Southwest.
Postcard of the Villa Zorayda, 1970. UF Digital Collections.

In 1933 the Mussallem family opened the home as a museum for the city of St. Augustine. The house has been run under the names Zorayda Castle and Villa Zorayda. It went through an eight-year renovation from 2000 to 2008.

2 thoughts on “Villa Zorayda

  1. Pingback: From Creek to Lake: The Maria Sanchez – Governor's House Library

  2. Pingback: Casa Monica Hotel: A Gilded Age Survivor – Governor's House Library

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