Vizcaya Museum & Gardens was originally a winter home built and owned by James Deering (1825-1925). His family owned the Deering Harvester Company and was one of the richest families in the United States by the end of the 19th Century.
In 1910 and 1912 James Deering bought the land that would eventually house Vizcaya. He travelled to Italy to collect antiquities for his future winter home. Construction began in 1913 and was completed in 1922 – the main house was ready by 1916 while the garden took longer to finish. The design of the main house and gardens were inspired by European architecture and landscaping, mixed with artifacts from the then contemporary American artists.
About 1000 people worked to build this incredible palace, located oceanfront on Biscayne Bay. James Deering officially moved in on Christmas Day 1916, an event marked with a huge Italian-themed party that included all of Deering’s friends. During the following years, James Deering would reside at Vizcaya during the winter months (from November to April) until his death in 1925.
He was a social man, who often entertained and invited friends to stay with him, including celebrities of the times as well as President Harding. It took a village to raise Vizcaya and also to run it and make sure everything was well maintained. The staff consisted of 16-18 persons to keep the main house in shape throughout the year and 26 gardeners to care for the grounds.
Today, Vizcaya provides a unique look into the Deering’s life and style. It’s definitely a place where you can step back in time and glimpse the past. You can walk around the main house and look into the different rooms and just imagine what it must have been like to live in that time and in that place.
The parties James Deering and his friends must have had, the delicious meals they must have enjoyed, the conversations, the laughter and the sorrows they shared. Vizcaya is grand by today’s standards and certainly must have been one of the largest (if not the largest) properties in Miami back in the days.
After touring the main house, go outside and walk around in the beautiful park-like garden. You’re not allowed to take any pictures inside the main house, so to get your selfies you really need to include the garden in your visit.