The former villa and estate of James Deering of the Deering McCormick-International Harvester fortune, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are located on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood in Miami, Florida. Originally 180 acres in size, the estate was developed by Deering, a well-known conservationist, to conserve the mangrove swamps and dense inland native tropical forests.
Built primarily between 1914 and 1916, the estate, designed by Paul Chalfin, is open to the public year-round except on Tuesdays and major holidays. Included in the sights are extensive Italian Renaissance gardens, a historic village outbuildings compound, and native woodland landscape.
Deering used Vizcaya as a winter residence from 1916, when construction on the primary building was completed (construction on the grounds continued for at least seven more years), until his death in 1925 onboard the steamship S.S. City of Paris on his way back to the United States. After Deering’s death, the estate was inherited by two of his nieces. Marion Chauncey Deering McCormick and Ely Deering McCormick Danielson started to sell off bits and pieces of the estate to pay for upkeep and maintenance costs incurred by passing hurricanes. Two decades after Deering’s death, a substantial chunk of the land was donated to the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Augustine, Florida, and to Miami’s Mercy Hospital.
Fifty acres surrounding the estate were held together and purchased by Miami-Dade County in 1952 for $1 million. After significant restoration projects, the estate was designated a National Historic landmark in 1994. Four years later, a trust was formed to serve as the museum’s governing body. In 2008, Vizcaya was named one of the country’s eleven most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Over the years, the estate and surrounding gardens have been used for important ceremonies and events. In 1987, President Ronald Reagen received Pope John Paul II at Vizcaya for his first visit to Miami. Seven years later, in 1994, President Bill Clinton chose the site to host the First Summit of the Americas and 34 world leaders met at Vizcaya to discuss trade benefits.