A deep dive into the history of Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (includes video story)

It’s no secret that Miami is a cultural hub, but Coconut Grove’s Vizcaya Museum & Gardens stands out.

Known for its beautiful architecture and gardens, Vizcaya has long been a jewel in South Florida.

James Deering, a millionaire with a reputation for lavish parties and social events, began construction of the house in 1914.

Art dealer Guido Minerbi sold Deering collections and sculptures that inspired the design. They represented the Age of Exploration. Deering, who enjoyed the open sea and owned three yachts, chose to have a caravel in the bay behind the home as an emblem for past explorers.

“I like to think of Deering as a Great Gatsby figure,” said Yusnavi Machado, Lead Learning Program Facilitator at Vizcaya. “He never married. This house is really about entertainment and bringing friends over and having a good time.”

Machado said the house used to have a bowling alley, a billiards room, and used to play movies. She explained that although prohibition was happening in Miami at the time, Deering “was having drinks illegally smuggled and all guest of Vizcaya of age were able to enjoy drinking and have parties even though the rest of the nation couldn’t at that time.”

 The Miami residence served as Deering’s winter residence from 1916 until his death in 1925. He traveled from Paris to the United States by steamship to enjoy his tropical oasis.

By 1923, the home was worth $15 million dollars due to its elaborate Italian Renaissance gardens and villages. Today, the property is worth $1 billion.

Restorations are common in the 108-year-old building to preserve its majestic allure. Most recently, the museum is adding hurricane impact windows, caring for its landscape, and finding new materials to protect it.

Tickets to tour the museum are available for purchase online and in person.

Correction: Because of reporting errors, this story originally misstated the name of Vizcaya Museum & Gardens as well as the year construction started.

Daniela Zulueta is a FIU Alumni at Florida International University who graduated with her bachelor's in digital broadcasting and media and holds an associate degree in journalism from Miami Dade College. She loves Miami and aims to share the stories of the citizens who live here and all over the world. After her studies, she wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment field.