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Frequently Asked Questions

Here we’ve provided information about the questions that visitors to Vizcaya ask most often about the estate. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Vizcaya by e-mailing vizcayainformation@vizcaya.org.

Preservation and Maintenance

  • 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.

History

  • Was Vizcaya moved from Italy to Miami?
    No, Vizcaya was built in Miami by both local workers and European craftsmen. Certain antique elements and many objects in the Main House and gardens were purchased from other countries, including Italy.
  • How was the Barge originally accessed and what was its function?
    Mr. Deering and his guests often toured the gardens (once connected by canals) by water in motor boats or a Venetian gondola. The Barge used to be heavily planted and, although it now appears to be a freestanding sculpture, it originally was more like an island. From the house, guests would be “ferried” to the Barge “island” on boats where they would enjoy tea or cocktails in the shade of a gazebo at the north end. The Barge’s gazebo and the original plantings were destroyed in the 1935 hurricane.
  • Why can’t we visit the Barge?
    Visitors cannot access the Barge today because it is in a fragile condition with uneven and dangerous paving. If we were to repair the structure and create access to the Barge, it would be an extensive undertaking, in part because federal law mandates that such access would need to accommodate visitors with disabilities.
  • How much did Vizcaya cost to build in the 1910s? What is its value today?
    It is said that Vizcaya cost $26 million to build. In today’s dollars, that amount would be equivalent to somewhere between $388 million and $8.7 billion, based on the relative scarcity of materials and labor a century ago and their increased cost today (www.eh.net).
  • How large was Vizcaya when it was built?
    Vizcaya originally consisted of the Main House, formal gardens, and Vizcaya Village, which comprised 180 acres on both sides of South Miami Avenue. Today, Vizcaya is approximately 50 acres, including the Main House and gardens, Vizcaya Village, and the area currently occupied by the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.
  • Was Mr. Deering married, and did he have any children?
    James Deering was not married and he did not have any children. There are many reasons that people choose not to marry and we do not have documentation regarding Mr. Deering’s private family life.
  • Who maintained Vizcaya in Mr. Deering’s time? How many staff members were there?
    Staff were required to maintain the house, gardens, Vizcaya Village and more. About 16 to 18 staff members operated the Main House during the winter season when Mr. Deering was in residence. At least 26 gardeners and estate workers cared for the gardens, the Village buildings and the farm areas. Vizcaya was built long after the abolition of slavery in the United States, so there were never slaves employed in the building or operation of Vizcaya.
  • What happened to Vizcaya after Mr. Deering’s death?
    Mr. Deering left Vizcaya to the daughters of his half-brother, Charles Deering, and the son of his sister, Abby Deering Howe. Charles Deering’s daughters, Barbara Deering Danielson and Marion Deering McCormick, and their families spent years caring for Vizcaya and seeking to make it publicly accessible. Family members lived in the house only occasionally after Mr. Deering’s death. Eventually the Deering daughters acquired full ownership of the property.
  • What is the square footage of Vizcaya?
    Vizcaya’s Main House is approximately 38,000 square feet.
  • How many rooms are in the Main House, including bathrooms?
    The Main House contains 54 rooms, 34 of which are open to the public. This count does not include the basement service areas.
  • Why are the beds so small? Were people shorter back then?
    Actually, the beds are not much smaller than our beds today. Vizcaya’s collections staff measured each bed in the Main House and most of them are similar in size to a contemporary twin-size or full-size mattress. A few beds are similar in size to today’s queen-size mattress. People were not historically shorter, but living habits and furnishing choices vary over time, by region and culture.

Visitor Amenities

  • Is admission required to visit the Café and Shop? If so, why?
    Yes, guests of the Café and Shop must pay admission because it is not possible to prevent unticketed visitors to the Café and Shop from visiting the rest of the property. Frequent visitors to the Café and Shop may wish to purchase a membership for free admission on an annual basis.
  • Why can’t we take photographs or videos in the Main House?
    The Main House is often crowded and photography and video can disturb other guests. It is also difficult to photograph the space well due to quality of light and the crowded conditions. Additionally, Vizcaya wishes to control the representation of its copyrighted collections and interiors.
  • How do I exit the estate? How do I reenter the Main House?
    Guests may exit the estate by walking up the promenade from the Forecourt at the front of the Main House. Visitors using wheelchairs may be picked up in the Service Area south of the Forecourt. Entry to the Main House is provided at the front door (west side) and from the East Terrace.
  • Where are the water fountains?
    Vizcaya has three water fountains available for visitors. There is one in front of the Café and Shop on the north side of the Main House; another is located in the service area next to the tent; and there is a water fountain near the restrooms in the Oval Plaza (southwest area of the gardens).

Public Programs and Admission

  • Do you have ghost tours? Are there ghosts at Vizcaya?
    We do not offer ghost tours. We have no records or archives that indicate ghosts have been or are a part of the estate. If you are looking for an evening experience at Vizcaya check out our calendar of events
  • Do you decorate for the holidays?
    Yes, we do. Vizcaya’s display of holiday décor includes poinsettias along the front entrance walk; a decorated, Deering-era inspired artificial Christmas tree in the Living Room; a menorah; and a Kwanzaa kinara in the Enclosed Loggia. These decorations are displayed from early December until approximately the first business day after the new year.
  • Why doesn’t Vizcaya host the Renaissance Festival anymore?
    The Renaissance Festival has not been held at Vizcaya for several years, due to the event’s popularity. The Renaissance Festival outgrew Vizcaya. To best preserve our National Historic Landmark there are no plans to hold such an event at Vizcaya in the future.
  • Are there certain days that are free admission?
    Vizcaya does not offer free general admission on particular days. However, visitors can explore reduced admission rates through a few avenues. Check out the museum’s current promotions, Culture Shock Miami, Golden Ticket, Museum Pass to see if any of these promotions might apply to you.
  • Why is there contemporary art at Vizcaya?
    The Contemporary Arts Program (CAP) commissions artists to develop site-specific projects inspired by Vizcaya. The program, which began in 2006, draws on the spirit of creative dialogue and contributions of contemporary artists that characterized Vizcaya’s founding, provides our visitors with new ways of seeing the historic estate, and strengthens relations with contemporary artists. Visit the CAP web page for information about current and past projects and exhibitions.

Accessibility

  • Why isn’t Vizcaya more accessible to visitors with disabilities?
    Vizcaya is committed to welcoming visitors with disabilities. However, Vizcaya was built as a private home in the 1910s without the accessibility accommodations required of public buildings today. Over the years, numerous changes have been made to the house and property to make Vizcaya more accessible, but there are limits as to how much is possible, because Vizcaya is a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest designation given to any historic property in the United States. Because of this designation, Vizcaya must be very careful not to alter or diminish the historic value or authenticity of the estate.
  • Can security officers provide transportation for visitors who have difficulty walking from the parking lot to the Main House?
    While Vizcaya’s security officers are not available to provide transportation to visitors, we do allow individuals who have difficulty walking to be dropped off and picked up in Vizcaya’s service area or to park in the wheelchair-accessible spaces on the property. Our golf carts are not intended for visitors and we cannot accept liability for transporting them. In addition, our security officers are stationed on posts and cannot function as visitor escorts. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

Leadership and Operations

  • Who owns and operates Vizcaya?
    Vizcaya is owned by Miami-Dade County and functions as an independent department within the County, similar to other departments such as Miami Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, Miami International Airport and others. Vizcaya is governed by the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust, a 24-member board established in 1998 that sets policy for the institution.
  • What are Vizcaya’s hours for telephone inquiries?
    Vizcaya’s general inquiries phone line (305-250-9133) is staffed Monday through Friday, 8am to 4:30pm. Questions can also be communicated by e-mailing vizcayainformation@vizcaya.org. Due to a high volume of visitors, it is difficult for the Ticket Booth to respond to phone inquiries.

Employment Opportunities

  • Are there job openings at Vizcaya?
    Thank you for interest in employment opportunities at Vizcaya. As a Miami-Dade County agency, Vizcaya recruits through Miami-Dade County’s Human Resources Department: www.miamidade.gov/jobs or 305-375-5627.
—updated May 2015
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