Tuesday March 11, 2008

The Charles Deering Estate

Deering Estate

The Charles Deering Estate is a nature and historical preserve in South Miami. It includes two historical buildings, and the largest virgin coastal tropical hardwood hammock in the United States. The wooden house was built in the late 19th century, the stone house was built in the early 20th. Here’s the aerial view, and you can clearly see the key-shaped dock, main lawn, and the huge mangrove forest surrounding the property.

Deering Estate

A photo at the site shows the buildings after hurricane Andrew in 1992. The wooden house was about 60% kindling, but was restored. South Miami was ground 0 for Andrew.* By the way, Aramis and Pepe have studios at Deering (part of a relatively new artist residency program), and were kind enough to provide a lot of information about the estate.

Deering Estate

A boardwalk snakes through the hammock . . .

Deering Estate

Not that much to see, actually. But you appreciate the people that originally lived here — getting around was not at all easy. Marsh, thick foilage, and woody root-fingers sticking up everywhere. Oh, and cottonmouth moccasins.

Deering Estate

Kind of a swank place. This is incidentally the sister estate to Vizcaya, which was built by Charles Deering’s brother(!). Unlike Viscaya’s lush gardens, Deering is all-native, and a lot more rustic (all things being relative, here).

Deering Estate

The obligatory Historic Kitchen. The interior of the buildings is about a 7 on the interestingness scale, a fact acknowledged by various spicing-up measures, including a great little exhibition of contemporary Miami artists in the wood house.

Deering Estate

Fancy doors in grand staircase of the stone house.

Deering Estate

So, Deering apparently has back-to-back weddings lined up most weekends of the year. At $6,000 a pop, they’re booked over a year in advance. Here, they’re just setting up, but check out that key-shaped dock and big lawn. Perfect.

Deering Estate

Prohibition-era wine cellar. The cool thing is that the cellar is behind a regular door, a steel-bar door, an uber-serious bank vault door, and a swing-away bookcase because, duh—it was built during prohibition, of which ‘ol Charlie wasn’t going to get in the way of his appreciation of wine.

* Not technically true, as a commenter points out — Andrew hit Homestead, about 10 miles south of the estate. However, even my parent’s house, another 40 miles further north, was trashed and without power for over a month.

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  1. Mikhail    Tue Mar 11, 12:22 PM #  

    Great minds think alike. LoL.

    We spent the day at the Deering Estate this past Sunday. It’s worth every cent of the $7 entry fee. I agree that the houses don’t score especially high on the interest scale, but the grounds are beautiful and during those rare beautiful weather days in SoFla, it’s a great place to go, if just to relax.

    Some pics that we took: http://absoluttusovka.fotki.com/lazy-sunday/

    There are also some pictures there from the Pinecrest Botanical Gardens (site of the former Parrot Jungle) PBG is free admission!

  2. joel    Tue Mar 11, 05:37 PM #  

    dont mean to rain on the parade, but it is “the wooden house was * built …”

  3. Liz T    Tue Mar 11, 06:31 PM #  

    I remember when I was a kid, not long after we moved here from NY, one of the first fieldtrips we took was to the Deering Estate. It was probably the first time I had an awareness that I actually didn’t hate South Florida. The first time I saw that Miami wasn’t soulless; it has a history. If anyone ever agrees to marry me, I think $6k is well worth it.

  4. Onajídé Shabaka    Tue Mar 11, 07:16 PM #  

    When I raced bicycles in the 80s, the end of our short training rides from the Grove ended at the Deering Estate. The road along the west perimeter was one way heading south at that time; I don’t know about today. I know it has changed.

    Also, we once encountered a baby rattler crossing the road. One of the rider’s father worked at UM so, he scooped it into his water bottle so that he could have his father examine it to determine if it was a baby or a pigmy. It was a baby.

    In terms of the two locations, Deering Estate or Vizcaya, I’ll take Deering any day. I love all the wooded area there and have been fascinated by that stretch of the coast for many years. I actually sailed down there from the Grove once. And, Vizcaya, I’ve boated into that place many times with a friend in his Boston Whaler. Of course, those were the days of my living on a boat in the south anchorage. ;-)

  5. alesh    Tue Mar 11, 10:01 PM #  


    Give me a fucking break. I understand that I’m not actually PAYING you for your copy-editing, but still. This article was published at something around 10 am, and you get your corrections to me at 4:40? That’s six and a half hours, my friend, and THAT is just not acceptable. I don’t mean to brag, but THOUSANDS of people by then would have been subjected to the error, and all for your lack of timeliness.

    Please, son. I appreciate what you’re doing, but if you want to make it in this business, you need to step your game up a notch here. Let’s let this be the last time we need to discuss this, bokay?

  6. joel    Wed Mar 12, 12:23 AM #  

    duly noted…
    to avoid another local blog fiasco, try sending me an advance copy of what you’re about to publish and i’ll try and cut that turnaround time in half…

  7. Anon    Wed Mar 12, 08:17 AM #  

    I beg to differ on one comment – “South Miami was ground 0 for Andrew” – I totally disagree. Everyone knows that “Ground 0” was Homestead and the “Country Walk” development in SW Kendall which was annihilated due to shoddy construction. Sorry to be nit picky, but I lived in the area and still suffer from some PTSD over it. Don’t want the worst experience of my life lessened by inaccurate statements like this. Great blog entry though…

  8. swampthing    Wed Mar 12, 08:26 PM #  

    I believe mary brickell purchased all the bay-front from miami river to coconut grove and some time later She sold to deering the parcel for vizcaya. Mary made all her money back and more, she was the flipper. I remember when i was a kid early 70’s my family would go to these cuban picinics next to mercy hospital. everyone would be yelling and wailing as they were reunited with lost friends. One day some of us kids took a short hike thru the swamp and came upon Vizcaya. imagine our astonishment and delight, it was like the end of a rainbow. before fences.
    Anyways it is great news to hear of the residency for artist, aramis if all right.
    Did some work recently with cristina lei and the parks dept. and the basel artist ball there was a big fun party.