While visitors to Miami primarily come for sun and fun, the city offers a wealth of artistic, cultural and architectural wonders, among them Vizcaya-the former winter residence of American Industrialist John Deering.
My first memories of Vizcaya date back to 1960 when I visited the grand estate with my parents and grandmother one Sunday afternoon. It may well have been the spark that ignited my love of old houses and classical architecture. The house is a perfect Italian Renaissance Palazzo. It was built in 1916 by Deering, a vice president of International Harvester, to resemble a 400-year-old Italian estate that had been occupied and renovated by several generations of family. Much of the actual building components (ceilings, doors, floors and mantlepieces) were bought from Italian antiquarians and installed here along with a ship-load of antique furniture.
To visit the property today, one can only imagine what it must have been like in 1916 surrounded by 180 acres of wild Florida jungle hammock. Much of the land has been preserved so even the incredible classical gardens are part of the attraction today. You can watch a short video that I shot at Vizcaya, below, and visit the museum website here. It's really a “must see” for any South Florida visitor who loves architecture on the grand scale.
For more on architectural history, consider:
A Farm Grows in Brooklyn
The Biltmore Estate: A Brief Architectural Tour
Revitalizing the Hemingway Home in Cuba