Documenting the Collection: Louis A. Koons, Jr.

Black and white passport photo of a white male

In celebration of Pride Month, we would like to highlight Louis A. Koons Jr. (1881-1929). Born in Massillon, Ohio, Koons was employed at Vizcaya between 1916 and 1921 as clerk and assistant to Artistic Director Paul Chalfin (1874-1959).

He helped document Vizcaya’s object collection through the card catalogue with his beautiful penmanship. The card catalogue is made up of hundreds of small cards. Each card contains a photo and description of the object, as well as acquisition details, including the name of the art dealer, the date of the purchase and the sale value. It is rather extraordinary to have this level of information for a historic house of this period and we owe it, at least in part, to Koon’s catalog work.

Koons was also Chalfin’s partner and they lived openly together in the Blue Dog, an elegant and fully furnished houseboat that James Deering (1859-1925) gifted Chalfin after the completion of Vizcaya’s Main House in 1916.

Travel & High Society

They traveled to Cuba, hosted dinner parties, and attended events together. Every so often, their names appeared on the social pages of the day. In 1917, the American journalist and renowned activist, Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998), who by then was a young society columnist for the Miami Herald, described the success of the Japanese costume ball that Mr. Talbot S. Hanan of the shoe manufacturing fortune organized as a benefit for the Women’s Club.

Black and white photo of a boat
The Blue Dog, ca. 1916. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Archives.
Article by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, 1917. The Miami Herald Archives via Newspapers.com

Douglas recorded Chalfin and Koon’s attendance in her article: “The former wore an embroidered coat in soft blue and rose, with rose pongee trousers, carefully folded in at the ankle, while the latter was resplendent in a coat of dull blue and gold embroidery, cream trousers and gold embroidered scarf.” By the end of the night, Koons was awarded the gentleman’s cup for his costume. Like the wealthy travelers lured to Miami’s winter season, Koons also enjoyed the society sporting events. He took part in fishing charters and attended regattas and polo matches.

Life After Vizcaya

After his time at Vizcaya, Koons worked for Lord and Taylor’s interior decorating department, in New York City. In 1929, he returned to his brother’s home in Miami, where he hoped to recover from pneumonia. On the news of his death, the Miami Herald acknowledged once more Koon’s association with Chalfin, sealing their lasting relationship. Deering’s Vizcaya and the social landscape of Miami provided a space for both men to enjoy life unapologetically.