Hops and Skips

Exploring Past, Present, and Future at Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

For four years, I’ve been aching to visit Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. On paper (and in photos), it looks like the coastal equivalent to my beloved Cheekwood, a place with plenty of history and scenery to explore. My first visit attempt was back in 2018 when we took a day trip to Miami from Naples with a 4-month-old in tow, but I learned the hard way that the museum is closed on Tuesdays. 

Fast forward through a pandemic and additional baby, and we finally got our chance this Spring Break during a kid-free overnight to Miami!

Located in the present-day neighborhood of Coconut Grove, Villa Vizcaya was secluded on owner James Deering’s 180-acre estate. When construction was completed in 1922, its location on the shores of Biscayne Bay was ideal. The majestic Italian Renaissance estate was surrounded by subtropical forest but seen, and approached, from the sea. 

Despite the serious old-world architectural vibes, Villa Vizcaya was actually quite a modern home when Deering spent his first winter in residence in 1916-1917. The exterior screams 18th-century Italian villa, but the interior boasted heating and ventilation, water filtration, refrigerators, elevators, an automated telephone switchboard, and a central vacuum-cleaning system, among other modern luxuries.

In the century since its construction, Vizcaya has taken a beating from the natural feature that was once such a selling point. The house sits just 100 feet from the water, making it particular vulnerable to damaging storms and rising sea levels. Much planning and funding has been dedicated to the restoration and future preservation of this gem. Since Hurricane Irma in 2017, Vizcaya (now owned by the city) has been heavily involved in environmental sustainability and addressing climate change issues in Miami.

One of my favorite things to do when visiting historic spots is imagining myself there in the past. Picture waking up to a view of the bay with a breeze blowing through your large bedroom windows, or a summer rain splashing on the tile of the courtyard, or drinking cocktails on the loggia with a band playing on the terrace. Vizcaya is a beautiful house and grounds with a rich history to learn – but it also has a fascinating, and most pressing, story of its future to explore.

Explore further: Tropical Atlantic Update, “Vizcaya: a Miami gem in peril from sea level rise”

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