Magically, the place was also bereft of the usual crowds of people that typically flock to see stunning and culturally significant National Historical Landmarks (2,528 in the US alone). It was our lucky day, as in a “Very Vizcaya” day!
When they were ready, Deering handed his project over to a young, unknown architect, Francis Hoffman, who would have no qualms bending to his wealthy client’s expectations.
Milan was the inspiration for Vizcaya’s Music Room (loved the harp), Palermo inspiration for the Reception Room. Deering’s personal suite was masculine yet ornate, the furniture from the Napoleonic era.
From whimsy (Deering’s billiards table flipped to reveal a roulette wheel; a panel on a wall in the Living Room opened to reveal a pipe organ) to wall coverings, furniture to fixtures, Vizcaya became an eclectic mix of old and new reflecting the period in which the villa was born, the American Renaissance, a testament to Deering’s refined and cultured status as a Renaissance man.
I loved the two-story open-air courtyard around which the house had been built. No pictures, again; sorry. Suffused with sunlight and fresh air (a huge skylight was added in the 1980’s, updated in 2012), it was a place of beauty filled with trees, orchids and all manner of tropical plants. Wonder if it was filled with mosquitoes and gnats back in the day.
After all, the waterfront property on which Deering built his Italian villa was originally little more than a jungle of mangrove trees at the turn of the century (Deering situated his villa close to the water to salvage as much of the mangrove forest as possible; not the wisest choice as a property owner, but certainly favorable as a conservationist), much of Florida an uninhabitable swamp.
Miami boasted a population of 10,000; a thousand of those inhabitants found work helping Deering build Vizcaya. Deering even built a small village west of his winter home to house many of the workers and eventually the staff.
Transporting building materials to the site (the automobile had just been invented when Deering began planning his winter home in 1910; paved roads were another decade coming) required Deering build a railroad tract to connect with the Florida East Coast Railway. He also dredged a channel in the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay so boats could deliver passengers, supplies, furnishings and works of art to the remote site.
Excuse me while we eat. It's rude to talk with my mouth full!