Vizcaya: A Precious Luxury of Miami's Past

Vizcaya was completed in 1916 and employed 1,000 workers. The cost of $26 million included 54 rooms and 38,000 square feet as it was placed amid 180 acres of mangrove swamp and tropical forest. The adaptation of Mediterranean and European architectural styles to Miami would cost billions to replicate today, if even the materials were available.

James Deering, who derived his fortune from being an executive at the family business, Deering McCormick-International Harvester, built this magnificent estate. Planning began in 1910 and he officially moved in on Christmas Day, 1916. He enjoyed spending winters there until his death in 1925. Visitors included President Warren Harding and film star Lilian Gish.

Mr. Deering and his guests often toured the gardens (once connected by canals) by water in motor boats or a Venetian gondola. The Barge used to be heavily planted. Although it now appears to be a freestanding sculpture, it originally was more like an island. Guests would be ferried to the Barge island on boats where they would enjoy tea or cocktails in the shade of a gazebo at the north end. The Barge’s gazebo and the original plantings were destroyed in the 1935 hurricane.

James Deering was not married and he did not have any children. He left Vizcaya to the daughters of his half-brother, Charles Deering, and the son of his sister, Abby Deering Howe. Vizcaya is now owned by Miami-Dade County and functions as an independent department within the County.

Mr. Deering’s bold entrance into Miami was truly LivinLux Miami Style.

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