The Deering Estate
Carolina Machin is a sophomore at Florida International University studying Communications with a minor in Political Science and completing a certificate in Pre-Law Skills and Professional Values. She served as the Public Relations chair for FIU Homecoming, a current Peer Mentor, as well as SGA Senator and sister of a Greek organization. With an ultimate goal of attending law school, Carolina currently works as a legal assistant at a corporate litigation firm in Coral Gables. On her free time she enjoys hanging out with friends and family and planning her next adventure. Having traveled on many occasions to Europe for cultural trips, she is fascinated by making connections to these art works in her own city. A lover of all things historical, learning the history behind many of the places she visits in Miami has made her semester one to remember. More than anything, Carolina hopes to continue in her pursuit of knowledge and never stop learning. Through her coursework in the Honors College she has been able to explore new sides to her own city while also becoming enriched by the history of art in the world as a whole.
The Deering Estate can be found in Miami-Dade county east of Old Cutler Road and 168th street. The most convenient way to access by highway would be the Florida Turnpike or US-1. If visiting locally, it can be accessed by Old Cutler Road. The Estate lies comfortably along the coast in South Dade and is a beautiful combination of different types of landscapes. It sits atop the geological foundation of the Miami Rock Ridge and has an elevation of over 25 feet above sea level. The estate offers its visitors a unique experience with sinkholes, caves and solution holes. The wonderful conservation efforts of the property have made it a welcoming home for many types of animals. The island of Chicken Key is also located only one mile away from the Deering Estate and adds yet another opportunity for visitors to enjoy a scenic visit. Also featuring 87 acres of pine rock land, many locally as well as federally endangered species call this area their home. The Richmond Cottage as well as the Stone House both sit in a beautiful spot on the land with views of the Biscayne Bay and the hiking trails. Overall, the estates location make it a unique combination of natural resources and breath-taking architecture.
The Deering Estate is the 1920s era home of Charles Deering, built by Charles Deering and the Richmond family. Samuel Richmond built his family a pioneer home on the property in 1896 and then in 1900 an additional property was built for the public known as the Richmond Hotel. The Richmond Hotel was actually the first hotel to be built between Coconut Grove and Key West. Before Deering arrived to the property, it had already been hosting humans continuously for over 10,000 years. This included the Tequesta and Paleo-Indians as well as Seminoles. In 1916 Charles Deering purchased the Richmond Hotel and renovated it in order for it to become a winter home for him and his wife Marion. Over the following years, Deering implemented a restoration of the natural environment of the area. In 1922 Charles Deering built the Stone House in order to showcase his art collection. In order to do this he contacted notable architect Phineas Paist and built this fireproof structure that would house his art from Spain, New York, and Chicago. Deering passed away in 1926 and the estate remained the property of his heirs until 1986 when it was purchased by the State of Florida.
The mission of the Deering Estate isn’t officially listed anywhere but the mission statement of the Deering Estate Foundation is “To raise public awareness, outreach, understanding and the enjoyment of the Deering Estate and to raise funds to support education, research, exhibits and collections, natural conservation and historical restoration and preservation.” (Deering Estate Foundation). This statement simply and cohesively puts together what it is that the foundation and the Deering Estate as a whole hope to do. Through plenty of programming, conservation efforts, and hard work they are able to accomplish these goals. The first sentence of the mission statements encompasses what it is that the estate is wishing to accomplish and in the second sentence it is more directly reflecting the goals of the foundation. The foundation is what continues to help fund all the amazing things that happen at the estate and keep it a prevalent location for art restoration and preservation. The Deering Estate and its employees work hard every day to stay true to this statement and keep it a place that adds rich value to our community.
The Deering Estate is located east of cutler road and 168th street. Although there is no direct stop at the Deering Estate, it can still be accessed through public transportation by taking the MetroRail and then the MetroBus. There is also a bike path leading to the Deering Estate that stretches 11 miles for those who would prefer to bike to the estate. Open every single day except Christmas and Thanksgiving, members of the community can come enjoy the property almost every day of the year. The hours of operation are a bit limited, open from 10 AM to 5PM and no admissions after 4 PM. This makes the estate not accessible during the week for those that work a traditional 9-5 job, although many special events take place passed regular operating hours. The fee for admission is $15 for adult and $7 for youth ages 4-14. There is no discount available for students but military and seniors receive $2 off on Tuesdays. This isn’t a huge discount and is restricted to only one day of the week. However, citizens of Miami Dade County can receive a pass for 4 free entries from their nearest Miami Dade Public Library branch, making the property accessible to those who cannot afford the admission. Members of the Deering Estate Foundation enjoy free entry to the estate. A general membership for one adult is $50 a year and students receive a discount on yearly memberships making it only $15 a year. This is a great discount that the estate offers and leaves a yearly membership at the same price of one day entry for students. Military discounts are not offered for the general membership and Florida residents don’t receive discounts on admission or general memberships. The general membership includes great benefits additionally to the free admission such as free entry to select special events, guided tours, discounts on personal photography, and a quarterly calendar.
Once housing South Florida’s most valuable art collection, Deering’s collection boasted pieces from El Greco, Zuluaga, Sorolla, and Padilla just to name a few. After his death, his art went to his two daughters and in 1927 most of it was donated to the Art Institution of Chicago. Since 1985 when the State of Florida purchased the property, the Deering family has made several donations of antiques and valuable artwork. Three large scale portraits as well as Marion Deering’s silverware. Some other pieces are displayed around the home aiding the visitors in picturing what is was like to be Charles Deering living in the estate at the time. One that caught my attention was Charles’ collection of antique Spanish ironwork. Displayed in glass casing, visitors can view three pieces of this ironwork that were likely used to restore and furnish his Spanish estates. The home makes it an immersive experience for its visitors by showcasing the pieces in appropriate rooms as you walk through. By the end of your visit, the permanent collections make you feel as if you got a full view on what it was like to be Charles Deering in the 1920s.
The Deering Estate offers contemporary and historic exhibits for its visitors in order to continue supporting their mission. Currently, the Estate presents Material Nature. An exhibition with works created by Alex Nuñez and Julie Davidow. Both of these painters are based in Miami and their works are highly inspired by nature. Alex Nunez had a residency at the Deering Estate and this inspired her large abstract paintings. Her research and experiences at the estate are portrayed in her works. Julie Davidow’s work further exemplifies the Deering Estate as a preserve that also incorporates the fusion of ecology with contemporary art.
The Estate is also currently showcasing its Historic Holiday Décor. During the month of December, visitors from all over visit the Estate the experience this historic décor inspired by the 1920s. It is an annual tradition that features the work of artists such as Alfredo Brito. Each room has a theme and is meticulously put together to create a complete holiday experience for its visitors. As a visitor, these rooms left me mesmerized and I wandered through each of them several times. Each time I found something I had not noticed before. The amount of detail and time put into each of these rooms left me in awe and transported me to a 1920s Christmas. I saw visitors young and elderly alike enjoying the yearly exhibit and it truly brought he Stone House together.
Probably what impressed me the most about the way that the Deering Estate functions is the amount of emphasis the put on their special programs and events. Not only do they have over 10 educational programs, they also offer more than seven ways to get involved in conservation and host several events on a daily basis. The Deering Estate truly goes out of its way to educate the community and offer something for everyone to enjoy.
I had a unique perspective on the special programs offered the Estate due to the fact that I chose to do my art service hours volunteering at one of these events. The event that I saw first-hand was the Mistletoe & Martinis annual fundraiser for the Deering Foundation. With a silent auction that was to raise thousands for the foundation, and all tickets being sold out, this was just one example of how successful these events at the estate are. Weeks of detailed planning all led to this successful night all for a great cause in raising funds for the foundation.
At first when I arrived to the estate I was nervous about having to approach a random visitor to ask them about their experience. But once I arrived this all changed. Everyone that I met was so welcoming and made conversation with me without me having to approach them. I met one visitor in particular named Rose Mendoza. She was there with her third-grade class and shared their excitement about the visit with me. The wonder that these students feel walking in on their yearly trip warmed my heart and reminded me of how much children benefit from cultural experiences rather than being tied to a tablet or phone all day. She also shared that visiting the estate during the Christmas time has become a yearly tradition in her family in order for them to view the historic décor. The Deering Estate is not just somewhere she goes for a work fieldtrip but also somewhere she chooses to bring her family. This was a true example of how the estate has something to offer people of all ages and can be a tradition in many ways. Whether that be a yearly trip during the holiday season or a yearly fieldtrip at your school. The Estate was owned by families for many years and meeting this visitor proved that to this date it still continues to unite groups of all types.
When it came to interviewing an employee, I chose to do this during my time volunteering in order to make it a more immersive and genuine conversation. While volunteering I met over 10 of the staff members at the Deering Estate who were working on putting together a yearly event for the foundation. These individuals truly cared about the cause and worked tirelessly in the hot sun to make the event a success. I was marveled when I heard form one of the employees assigned to this event that she had her grandchildren drive down from Tallahassee, FL to volunteer and help her set up. I found the employees passion and drive to be inspiring and a great reflection of how the estate must treat their workers. I got to interview and converse with Michelle Streit who is the director of special events.
We spoke about how long the planning of this event took and she shared with me that everything is planned down the smallest details and just the tablescapes took two weeks to perfect. Her perspective as an employee at the deering is much more on the managerial side as her role is to make the programing a success. She taught me many thing about putting together a special event and her biggest advice was to always keep pushing forward. If something doesn’t work out, find an alternative and keep the show going. We can’t give up when an issue arises, we must find solutions in order to assure the success of these programs. Her drive is a great representation of that of all the employees I cam across. Thanks to them, the Deering Estate will continue to be a successful cultural destination for all those who visit.
All in all, the Deering Estate left me impressed with how detail orientated everything seemed as well as the variety of special programs and the strong character of its employees. I do think that the Stone House should be slowly brought back to the power house of art that it once was. There are only two current exhibitions and a few permanent pieces. Through their exceptional foundation events and programing I think this goal could very well be achieved over time. With its blend of elegant architecture and natural wonders, the Deering Estate should be a place that every Floridian experiences at least once. I look forward to continuing to visit as well as sharing the wonders this place has to offer with everyone I can. The Deering Estate brings pride to our country and is a unique piece of history in our own backyard.