One of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, Coconut Grove offers both tourists and residents panoramic views of Biscayne Bay, plenty of dining options and protected parks and recreation areas. The Grove is also home to one of the area’s oldest cultural gems — the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.
Its name and presence have long been synonymous with old Miami and the historical heritage it represents. The history of Vizcaya is part of this draw. “The creation of Vizcaya mirrors the creation of Miami,” says Suzie Trutie, Vizcaya’s marketing and public affairs director. At one point during its construction, Vizcaya even employed 10 percent of Miami’s general population. It was the vision of a Midwestern agricultural business magnate, who decided to build his winter home in the then less-popular Coconut Gove area in the early 1900s. James Deering envisioned a European-style estate, complete with sprawling gardens and dozens of full-time staff, in the middle of subtropical Miami. While this vision was unique, Deering also eschewed employing established architectural firms in lieu of three young architects and designers to embark upon the construction of this large-scale project.
Vizcaya took just over a decade to complete, and the end result is what now comprises the buildings and gardens available for public access. Although the original acreage has been downsized (it originally covered 180 acres compared to the present-day 43 acres), Vizcaya is no less impressive in its modern-day iteration than it was 100 years ago.
The main house and museum center contain 34 bedrooms, evoking the aesthetic found in the estates and palaces of Europe. Every room is decorated with a different architectural theme, showcasing baroque, classical and neoclassical European influences. Deering was also very meticulous in curating the objects that furnished the rooms — the collection inside the house, from the vast array of artworks to the objets de curiosite, were originally brought in from continental Europe.
Surrounding the behemoth central edifice is a variety of expansive and fastidiously maintained gardens that, much like the distinctive rooms in the main home, each offer something visually unique. The main, or central, garden is the largest on the property, where most visitors casually stroll, picnic or take in the natural beauty of the grounds. However, several smaller, equally stunning gardens dot the property, including the maize garden, fountain garden and a secret garden. All of these gardens are inspired by villa landscapes typical of Italy and France in the 17th and 18th centuries. The elaborate geography of the property could easily take a visitor an entire day to discover.
In recent years, Vizcaya has also transformed itself into a community hub, offering seasonal activities that encourage visitors to keep returning. There is an outdoor film series, along with weekly tea parties, moonlit garden tours and even cooking classes that utilize vegetables and herbs from its gardens. “People who haven’t visited should visit because it is such a unique destination,” says Trutie. “This was once a private home, and now it’s a great part of the Miami community.”
Vizcaya stands as a functioning piece of Miami’s history, evoking a centuries-old grandeur and aesthetic while simultaneously embodying the progress, growth and economic boom that became this modern-day metropolis.
Tea On The Terrace: May 3 & 10, 2015 @ 1pm
Spend an afternoon on Vizcaya’s north terrace (weather permitting), sipping tea and enjoying the picturesque view of Biscayne Bay.
Conservations: Walk And Talk With Chief Horticulturist: May 9 @ 10am
Walk and talk with Ian Simpkins, Vizcaya’s chief horticulturist. Learn the history of the estate’s plants and trees.
Additional activities and events at Vizcaya include moonlight garden tours, a film series, and a wide variety of youth programs. For information vizcaya.org