Yesterday one of my friends that I grew up with stopped by. Last time we got together was two and a half years ago. We were in Fort Myers and we went to Naples to see them. This time they came from Naples to visit us here, so they drove from the gulf coast to the Atlantic coast. Took almost three hours. What a great day seeing, my good buddy Mike, (we grew up right next door to each other) and Ann Marie. He was also my best man at our wedding 500 years ago. We talked a lot about the past, what we are up to now. Took a nice long walk around the park in 90 degree heat, but cooled off with refreshments in the Rv. After while we went to the lighthouse which was closed,(but we have a key), walked up and admired the great view that is up there. Then had a bite to eat at the Lighthouse Cafe, and strolled the beach for awhile. Just like that it was after seven. So away they went. It was great to see them both and catch up on life. GREAT DAY HAD BY ALL
The Vizcaya Estate, which overlooks Biscayne Bay, was built between 1914 and 1922 as the winter home of farming manufacturer James Deering. He was a successful businessman and millionaire from the Midwest. In 1908, after retiring as the vice-president of the International Harvester Company, he bought property in South Florida. He chose to build an Italian style waterfront villa, surrounded by formal gardens and set in a carefully preserved South Florida jungle hammock.
In 1910 he got together with artistic director Paul Chalfin. Together they made plans to build a The Vizcaya Estate . After traveling to Italy, touring villas, and buying up decorative antiques for the new estate. Deering hired Francis Burrall Hoffman, Jr. as the architect that would build his estate on the 130 acres of Vizcaya Bayfront land. in 1914 Deering again traveled to Florence and met Diego Suarez. a landscape architect who designed Vizcaya’s amazing gardens.
Over 1000 people were employed in the construction of Vizcaya between 1914 and 1916 at a time when the population of Miami was only 10,000. The project faced challenges as World War I consumed Europe, but the work continued. By 1916, the Main house was completed, and the surrounding gardens, extensive and manicured, were done by 1923.
The 38,000-ft mansion has 70 rooms fitted with European antiques and American art vintage furniture commissioned in the 1900s, ten acres of formal gardens and diverse collections including European antiquities, and century-old plants. Over the years, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens has expanded its assortment of plants. There are over 2,000 specimens of orchids and other plants in Vizcaya Gardens and Museum. Inside the museum, you will find much of the original pieces.
At Vizcaya, with it’s reference to the past complete with antiques, had technology, and modern comfort. Regardless of its Baroque appearance, Vizcaya was a very modern house. It was built with large reinforced concrete, with the latest technology of the period, such as generators and a water filtration system. Vizcaya was also equipped with heating and ventilation, two elevators, a dumbwaiter, a central vacuum-cleaning system and a partly automated laundry room.
The house was not finished until the end of 1916, when Deering moved in on Christmas Day. The gardens were completed in 1921. He approached his villa from the sea. As his yacht’s gangplank touched down, the boom of ancient cannon heralded his arrival on Christmas Day, 1916. Deering was dressed as a Renaissance prince and his guests were dressed as Italian peasants.
Deering had only nine years to enjoy his 70-room villa, his art treasures and his formal gardens and to entertain his friends in one of the greatest of American mansions. In September 1925, he died at the age of 65.
The ground floor features a grand entrance opening into a spacious two-story courtyard. The rooms on this floor include the entrance hall, library, reception room, living room, east veranda, music room, dining room, flower room and serving pantry.
The beautiful Hallway
The Living Room was the largest room in Vizcaya. It has been called the “Renaissance Hall” because many of the objects were created during the European Renaissance. The organ can be played either manually or automatically using music rolls. Around the organ there is a religious painting that was cut in half to create the doors that conceal the organ pipes.
The Music Room – Documents suggest that the player piano and the organ were probably the only instruments actually used during James Deering’s lifetime, and that the selection of fine antique instruments in the Music Room functioned more as a gallery.
The Dinning Room
Enclosed Terrace/Loggia is another room that combines so many different patterns, painted surfaces, and materials to a great effect. the 18th-century gilded iron gates that lead to the South Arcade are originally from the Pisani family palace in Venice.
The Flower Room – It’s where flowers were cut and arranged for the house. This side of the house was dedicated more to staff and now this room is where volunteers prepare for tours of the house and gardens.
The second floor housed Deering’s personal suite of rooms and guest bedrooms as well as a Breakfast Room and the Kitchen.
One of the staircases that goes to the 2nd floor
The accommodations are quite lavish as movie stars, like Lillian Gish stayed during her visit in 1917. She was called “The First Lady Of Film” as she ruled the silent screen. I wonder what room she stayed in?
Some of the guests bedrooms all thru the 2nd floor
The 2nd floor provided Mr. Deering and his guests a breakfast room that looked out over the vast formal Vizcaya gardens
The kitchen is like a restaurant kitchen. Complete with three sinks, a grinder for spice, a dumb waiter and lots of room. The kitchen is on the second floor near the Breakfast Room, You didn’t have to go far for breakfast.
The Mansion is incredible !! There were other rooms, nooks and crannies that I was just to overwhelmed and amazed to take pictures of them or we weren’t allowed in the rooms.
East Terrace that goes to the Ocean
You go out these doors to the Incredible gardens. Vizcaya’s 10 acres of gardens. In many ways, the Formal Gardens resemble the layout of France’s Versailles
The sprawling Formal Gardens were designed by landscape architect Diego Suarez to feel like a great outdoor room, connecting to the main house along a north-south axis. Several architectural elements come together in one space. Massive shaped bushes lined the corridor and give way to The Mound, where The Casino pavilion provides an aerial view of the gardens.
Trimmed shrubs organize walkways into mesmerizing, geometric patterns. Thick columns, lush mazes and classical statues also lend to its European aesthetic, but Vizcaya uniquely embraces its tropical surroundings as well. Here, palms, rare orchids and Cuban limestone infuse the palatial Mediterranean vibe with a signature Miami flair. I Couldn’t have said it any Better!
Sculptures from eighteenth century Italian gardens – especially those around Rome – serve as accents in the gardens. New sculptures were also commissioned. The new sculptures were carved from a soft porous coral stone, which made them look weathered almost immediately.
Of course it had to have a pool. The swimming pool at Vizcaya is partially located under the living room and has a very unique indoor / outdoor design. The indoor area gives the feeling of a traditional grotto. There is a ceiling mural designed by American artist Robert Winthrop Chandler which features an underwater scene including fish, seashells, marine life and coral. I didn’t get a picture of the mural 😒
It also had a bowling alley and billiard room, unfortunately it is no longer there and I couldn’t come across any pictures.
Vizcaya included its very own farm and village. Located on the west side of South Miami Avenue, Vizcaya Village was built alongside the Main House and designed to house crops and farm animals. It is no longer here, but they are in the process of duplicating the farm as it once was.
Originally an estate of 180 acres, it had a dairy, poultry house, mule stable, greenhouse, machine shop, paint and carpentry workshop and staff residences. This required the staff to be present year round.
Approximately 16-18 staff maintained the house, and 26 gardeners and workers were permanent residents of the house. The Village buildings housed the property’s staff quarters, auto garages, equipment sheds, and workshops, and also barns for the domesticated animals.
He built his dream winter villa from 1914 and through the Roaring Twenties, costing him an estimated $26 million at that time. Today, the property is worth an estimated $9 billion.
The family eventually donated the property to the people of Miami. The Miami-Dade County acquired the villa and gardens in 1952 and it then became the Dade County Art Museum, due to the impressive arts and antiquities amassed by James Deering. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
It is truly a grand setting, and as usual the pictures don’t to it justice! I wish I could have been there to join in on some of the celebrations.
This past Saturday Bill Baggs State Park had a Dancing in the Moonlight fundraiser, , for the historic Cape Florida Lighthouse located in the Park.
Dave & I were asked to volunteer at the event, to watch the garbage cans so they don’t overflow and if they did, we were to dump the garbage into bags. Not a hard thing to do at all, We agreed. As it turned out there were other volunteers assigned to do the same thing. We ended up not doing anything, just enjoying a great party! And we didn’t have to pay $100.00 each.
The Friend’s Of The Cape Florida Lighthouse haven’t had any activities or dances since Covid so this party was definitely a success, it was sold out!
“Celebrate with an evening of dancing under a full moon while supporting Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Tickets include park admission, moonlit lighthouse tours, live music & dancing, souvenir cup, light bites, soft drinks, bonfire and more*.
“Enjoy lighthouse views of Miami’s night skyline at South Florida’s only Full Moon Lighthouse party. Cash bar beer/wine/cocktails, drink tokens available in advance or on-site.”
We got there a bit early to take pictures before a lot of people arrived. We estimated that about 350 attended this grand event.
The beach by the lighthouse looked so different, with tables & table clothes, with white chairs and lounge chairs. Plus with the lights it looked really amazing.
Let the Party Begin . . . . .
What made the event extra Special was seeing the full moon from on top of the lighthouse.
The moon from the top of the lighthouse and the lighted sidewalk to the entrance of the lighthouse from above.
The party is where all the lights are. On the next picture where the green lights are, you see a tower with a light on top, that is the area where our RV is parked. The city lights you see after that are Key Biscayne and then further out is Miami.
Dave gazing up at the full moon
“The moon was so beautiful that the ocean held up a mirror.” — Ani DiFranco
The Rangers and the Volunteers got together last Friday night here at Bill Baggs for a festive occasion to party, mingle, eat some ethnic food and have a good time!
It was held where the 3 volunteer sites are located, in a newly cleaned out are, that looks really nice. The volunteer that got the clean up going is Jim and his wife Nancy. We also had the party because Jim and Nancy are leaving us and heading back to New Jersey where they live.
The start of our ethnic food is Croatian Meat Casserole, Vietnamese Sandwiches and a Brazilian Salad, Plus an Italian pasta and meat dish. For dessert a Cuban cake, I’m only calling it Cuban because the Park Manager who is Cuban brought the cake. We also had an Italian Cheese Cake. All the food was delicious! And there was also some Moonshine and Homemade Rum.
This is part of the area that was cleared out, It’s now known as . . . . . .
We even had a fun ceremony where Jim (Himmy) was awarded a Badge & Gun for his contribution to the Park. Rangers Jorge, Shane & Alexis conducted the ceremony and presented the awards
It was great meeting & volunteering with Jim & Nancy!
“What life expects of us is that we celebrate.” -José Eduardo Agualusa.
we’ve been enjoying our stay at the park again this year, talking walks and going to the beach, volunteering at the gate and just relaxing.
We are nestled in a big area close to the park office, from our site we take an old dirt road, only used by the rangers, to get to No Name Harbor where the marina is and Boater’s Grill on Biscayne Bay.
We walk by The Cleat Bar that is in the Channel inside the park.
Passing the fishing docks, our neighbor Beatrice and her dog Scarlet, boats and the seawall to the Lighthouse.
Continuing our walk past kite surfers and Stiltsville in the distance, fishermen at the sea wall and the lighthouse.
Walking back to the RV one route is to go thru the parking lot where we pass, tables, the lighthouse entrance, bike rentals, The Lighthouse cafe’ and pavilions. A great walk to take anytime.
Our good friends Jim & Ginny who are volunteering at Jonathan Dickinson State Park came out for a visit.
No outing to Bill Baggs is complete without a visit to the Lighthouse and it’s 109 steps to the top and a visit to The Keeper’s cabin.
And a stop at the Beach
We all had a great visit!
We also offer our time at the front gate on Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays.
We open up the park get things ready for the day ahead and change the beach flags accordingly. Not a bad place to spend the winter.
We are now in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, in Key Biscayne Florida. This is a barrier island right next to Miami. We left The villages yesterday and traveled 298 miles to get here. We were here last year for three months working and back again for three months working. Leaving here June first. Our workdays will be, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We thought we were to be at the light house for work, but not to be. Melissa will be at the gate and I will do what I did last year, riding my bike around cleaning up the park , with a small project here and there to do. This will also be our last work camping gig for a few years as we plan to travel out west.