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Unveiling the Deering Estate: The History and Natural Beauty of this Florida Historical Site

Nestled along the southwestern edge of Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, the Deering Estate is Miami’s premier landmark that showcases the best of South Florida’s historic architecture and natural environment. 

As a 21st Century museum destination for tourists and local residents, a variety of signature events, programs, tours and classes are offered throughout the year, as well as opportunities for field trips. Including a variety of fun and festive events such as our historic ghost tours in the fall and various outdoor activities in the summer.

Exploring Florida’s Historic Landmarks at Deering Estate

The oldest existing buildings on the estate are those built by the Richmond family and Charles Deering. In 1896, Samuel H. Richmond built a pioneer home for his family on the estate as part of the settlement of the Town of Cutler. In 1900, an addition to the home was built and then opened to the paid public as The Richmond Hotel – the first hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West. The graceful Mediterranean revival–style Stone House, built by Charles Deering to showcase his valuable art collection, was constructed in 1922.

From 1913-1918, Charles Deering purchased the land and renovated the Richmond Inn, the area’s only hotel. Adding a pump station, carriage and car garage, generator house, and boat turning basin as support structures. Deering’s winter residence became a self-sustaining homestead for he and his wife, Marion. Over the next few years, Deering invited renowned botanists, David Fairchild and John Kunkel Small, to implement a restoration of the area’s natural environment. In 1922, he also contracted the notable Coral Gables’ architect Phineas Paist to build the Stone House, a 13,000 square foot Mediterranean Revival home capable of housing the massive art and furnishings collection he was relocating from his homes in Spain, New York and Chicago.

In 1916, Deering purchased and renovated the Richmond Inn, the area’s only lodging facility, and established it as a winter home for himself and his wife Marion, adding additional support structures to establish a self-sustaining homestead.  Over the few next years, Deering brought in renowned botanists David Fairchild and John Kunkle Small to implement a restoration of the area’s natural environment.  Deering contracted the notable Coral Gables architect Phineas Paist to build a fireproof structure capable of housing the massive art collection he was removing from his homes in Spain, New York and Chicago.  By 1922, the Stone House was completed and was being filled with the tapestries, paintings, books and antique furnishings he had spent decades collecting while the tropical hardwood hammock and endangered pine rocklands returned to fill in the land around his homes.

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History of the Deering Family

The Deering family, originally of South Paris, Maine, built what became one of the largest corporations in the United States, the International Harvester Company. William Deering and his sons, Charles and James Deering, incorporated their original company in 1883 in Illinois but its reach was ultimately global in the industrialization of agriculture.

The History of Charles & James Deering

Charles and James Deering, became known for their gilded age lifestyle of world travel and opulent homes, but also for their philanthropic support of schools and hospitals, within the Chicago area, abroad, and in Miami where they made their winter homes. Charles’ children would continue that legacy with important gifts to The Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University.

Charles Deering in his lifetime directed extensive work on the genealogy of the Deering family, held in the archives of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. His wife Marion’s family is also extensively documented by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Today, the Charles Deering Estate and James Deering’s Villa Vizcaya stand as lasting testaments to the family’s mark in South Florida. You are now able to book nature tours of the Estate’s ground as well as the historic structures that still stand there today. Plus, Deering Estate now offers a number of events and art exhibits throughout the year, continuing a long legacy for the storied Estate.

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The Preservation of a Florida Historical Site

Charles Deering died in 1927, but the estate remained with his heirs until 1986 when it was purchased by the State of Florida and added to the National Registry of Historic Places.  Most of Deering’s original art collection was donated to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Libraries at Northwestern University by his daughters. Today, the Deering Estate is managed by Miami-Dade County’s Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department and supported by the Deering Estate Foundation, Inc. Some original items can be seen in the homes today, as well as the tropical hardwood hammock and endangered pine rocklands are preserved to transport our guests to the past. You are able to rent the space for weddings and other private events, as well as book tours of the property including our seasonal ghost tours of the historic grounds.

Gallery of Historical Events in Florida