Why can’t we touch walls or objects in the Main House?
Historic buildings, materials and objects can be harmed when we touch them. Our hands, even when they are freshly washed, carry acids and oils that are permanently damaging to many different kinds of materials. Over even a short amount of time, irreversible damage can be done.
Why can’t we touch flowers or plants or climb on trees or walls in the gardens?
Vizcaya’s gardens are different from a public park. The plants and trees are delicate, easily damaged and part of the museum’s living collection. Many trees are historic or rare and recognized as champion specimens, the largest of their kind. The architectural materials and elements are also delicate and historic. Some of these materials are 100 years old, just like the estate itself, but several are much older—many of the statues and architectural elements in the gardens are European antiques that are centuries old.
Are there plans to restore the fountains?
Vizcaya’s fountains are almost 100 years old and have suffered damage due to time, salt air and tropical weather. While the water in the fountains was never intended to be as clear as that in swimming pools, the fountains are in need of re-engineering for better water circulation.
Why is there water damage on so many ceilings on the second floor of the Main House?
The type of roof and the climate conditions contribute to situations that lead to water damage. Although clay tile roofs, such as Vizcaya’s, are known for their durability, South Florida’s subtropical climate is aggressive, causing damage during storms and accelerating the deterioration of building materials. Water infiltration can occur where tiles break or copper flashing corrodes. In addition, the gutters and drainage systems of the Main House are historic, and often can’t adequately divert large volumes of water during heavy rains. Areas where water collects are vulnerable to leaks. Moisture-related damage, such as staining and paint loss, result from these leaks.
What restoration projects are currently underway at Vizcaya?
Extensive building systems upgrades – including plumbing, electrical and fire – remain in the Main House in addition to the restoration of the building’s envelope components such as the roof, walls, and windows. As part of this process, Vizcaya will replace the perforated metal hurricane screens that diminish the appearance of the Main House from outside and obstruct views of the surrounding landscape from within. The improvements to the HVAC and plumbing systems are planned for 2016-17.
Has Vizcaya been damaged in any hurricanes?
Yes, hurricanes have caused major damage to the estate. Vizcaya was first seriously damaged by the Great Miami Hurricane in 1926, the year after the death of James Deering, Vizcaya’s owner. In the 1930s another hurricane further damaged the estate. Although the Main House is now rather secure, the gardens and the statues within them are very vulnerable to tropical weather and have suffered damage in various storms, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005.
Why is there trash floating in Biscayne Bay?
Vizcaya staff regularly clears the trash from Biscayne Bay and the mangroves. Tides and winds, however, move trash into the area on a constant basis, and Vizcaya does not have the resources to clean this area often enough to keep it free of debris. The trash is a reminder of everyone’s responsibility to dispose of waste appropriately at Vizcaya and elsewhere.
What’s that smell?
Many visitors notice a sulfurous smell. The smell comes from the mangrove shore ecosystem along the southeastern edge of the property and is a natural byproduct of a healthy mangrove forest. There are other smells as well; as an historic property and large estate with many ecosystems in a hot and humid location, Vizcaya can be a sensory experience. Various sources in addition to the mangrove shore contribute to odors, including aging materials and the salt air.
Why don’t you replace missing elements from statues?
Many of Vizcaya’s statues that are missing pieces or showing signs of wear and tear were like this when they were brought to the estate from Europe—many are centuries old and were purchased to help create Vizcaya’s unique look and feel. National preservation standards suggest that it is generally not appropriate to replace missing elements, particularly when we are not sure what the original looked like. This is especially relevant to statues that have lost their unique details over time. Vizcaya’s focus is to clean, stabilize and preserve the statues.