Villa Vizcaya in the old Coconut Grove neighborhood in Miami is a visit to the past. It was built in a time when wealthy industrialists and railroad and oil tycoons built mansions out of their dreams. Vizcaya is pieces of European art and textiles, native Floridian coral and shells, salt and sea air. At nearly 100 years old, Vizcaya is a treasure.
Vizcaya is the epitome of “old” Florida with it’s coral walkways and fountains. Located right on Biscayne Bay in Miami, it was built by agricultural industrialist James Deering in 1916 as an Italian Renaissance-style villa. There are now ten acres of gorgeous gardens along with stunning views of the bay through old stained glass windows.
While the gardens are fashioned after European and Italian-style villas, indigenous tropical plants and materials have been incorporated for a unique and beautiful experience.
The home and gardens were designed and built by a team: architect F. Burrall Hoffman, Colombian landscape architect Diego Suarez, painter Paul Chalfin and Deering himself. Suarez and Chalfin were instrumental in creating an atmosphere of an indoor/outdoor living environment. After Deering’s death and two devastating hurricanes, the family gave the home, contents and grounds to the county in 1955 with the agreement it would always be a museum.
Like his brother Charles, Deering was a naturalist and was intrigued by the natural rockland hammock (native forest of hardwoods) and mangrove shore right on Biscayne Bay. He was adamant about preserving and not disturbing these rare and natural elements that are unique to South Florida.
The estate’s unique name was created by Deering from a few influences: he combined the east Atlantic’s Bay of Biscay, and the Spanish province that is known as “Vizcaya” or “Biskaia” and an early Spanish explorer for whom the waterway was named, Sebastián Vizcaíno. At the time, the city of Miami had 10,000 residents and the estate employed nearly ten percent of the population while being built.
Bring your parasol and take a stroll through another time: Stone was quarried from local Coconut Grove and the Keys, uncovering fossils and coral; The mature oak trees were planted in 1917 making them over 150 years old. The secret garden was meant to be a rose garden but the sun proved too strong and the tea houses have stunning views of Biscayne Bay and the native mangrove shoreline. With so many gems scattered throughout the estate and the surrounding grounds, it is difficult to find a favorite spot. Enjoy!