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vizc site history

Deering in Florida
James Deering joined his family's Deering Harvester Company in 1880. The company was bought out in 1902 by J. P. Morgan and merged with McCormick Reaper Company to form International Harvester, the largest producer of agricultural machinery at the time. Deering functioned as the vice president of the International Harvester company until his retirement in 1909. In 1910, motivated by poor health, he decided to buy land in Coconut Grove south of Miami and just north of his brother's estate. It was on this site that he and his design collaborator Paul Chalfin created Villa Vizcaya. Chalfin, who was trained as a painter, was introduced to Deering in 1910 to assist in the interiors of Deering's Chicago home.
The Construction of the Villa
The primary construction period for the villa and gardens took place from 1914 to 1917. Historic images indicate that the east elevation, which faced the principal gardens, was constructed according to architectural drawings produced by the project architect F. Burrall Hoffman and eventually altered under to the influence of Paul Chalfin as well as James Deering himself.

Historic photographs indicate that Deering first arrived at his winter home sometime around December 25, 1916.
The Gardens
The estate's landscape master plan and formal gardens were designed by Colombian landscape designer Diego Suarez.  When Chalfin and Suarez began designing the gardens, limited information about the new tropical landscape, including how to negotiate  mosquitoes, land crabs, hurricanes and high water, had to be gathered from locals, many of whom had only recently arrived in South Florida.
The Rose Garden
The Rose Garden, one of two principal gardens documented for this project, presented a problem from its inception due to siting and its proximity to Biscayne Bay. The Rose Garden is one of a series of small gardens that stretches out along the mangrove hammock along the bay. Deering’s interest in flowers and his desire to provide a proper setting for his Italian Bassano di Sutri fountain helped inspire a plan that would generate ongoing concern over its viability, as found in letters between Deering and Chalfin. By the end of 1914 it appears that the overall plan for the garden was set.
The Marine Garden
The Marine Garden and Peacock Bridge are located southeast of the primary axis of the formal garden directly off of the Rose Garden.   Since access to the villa was primarily by water, the boathouse and causeway figured as two of the earliest site improvements south of the casino and villa.  It would only be a matter of time before a shorter route from the boathouse necessitated the need for a more direct link to the villa and formal gardens.  Additionally, the Marine Garden served as the primary link to the groves and outer islands to the south of the formal gardens.  It also served as a tank for fish where villa guests could catch their dinner.

vizcaya in scaffolding
An historic view of the east  elevation under construction (1915).
gardens under construction
A construction view looking east across the Rose Garden with the Bassano di Sutri fountain (ca. 1919-22).
The south elevation shortly after its completion, during the construction of the gardens (1916).
gardens under construction
The Rose Garden after completion looking east (undated photo).
garden done
The Peacock Bridge in the Marine Garden during construction (ca. 1920-22).