Vizcaya Through The Years

Vizcaya has been a witness to numerous significant occurrences in the history of Miami over the last century. Initially built in 1916 as the vacation home of the affluent businessman James Deering, it has since evolved into a revered public art museum. Throughout its existence, Vizcaya has actively engaged with the community and played a pivotal role in shaping several important moments in Miami’s history.

In this livestream with the Wolfson Archives, we walk through some of these key moments as well as community programs and fun memories. Watch to relive the fun and check out some historic highlights below.

Opening Day of Vizcaya: March 1953

Step back in time to the grand opening of Vizcaya’s museum in 1953, as County Commission Chairman I.D. MacVicar welcomes the excited crowd and introduces the museum’s director, Robert Tyler Davis. On this momentous occasion, Vizcaya welcomed an impressive 977 visitors, a remarkable feat even by today’s standards. At the time, visitors were required to pay a dollar to explore the enchanting gardens and an additional dollar and twenty-three cents for access to the Main House.


Legendary Connie Gordon at Vizcaya: 1960s

In this rare footage from the 1960s, the legendary Connie Gordon can be seen painting on the waterfront of the estate. Connie Gordon was an innovative artist renowned for her captivating mixed-media creations that harmoniously blended vibrant colors and intricate textures. Her artistic talent earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Prolific Creative Art Motivator.” With a career spanning 80 years, she gained recognition both in the United States and abroad, frequently making appearances on national talk shows.


President Reagan Meeting with the Pope: 1987

Vizcaya not only attracted movie stars and celebrities but also welcomed various heads of state and politicians. Witness a historic moment as Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II stroll through the magnificent Vizcaya gardens in this clip from Wolfson’s Archives. Their conversation covered a wide range of topics, focusing on the pursuit of peace, justice, and freedom. The Main House also played host to these distinguished guests, with the chairs they sat in now on display in the Living Room.


Queen Elizabeth II Visited Vizcaya: 1991

In 1991, Queen Elizabeth II honored Vizcaya with her presence during her visit to Miami. Despite the rain, her visit left an indelible mark as she received gifts from children representing the Miami Children’s Hospital, among others, before departing.


Preparation for Summit of the Americas: 1994

The historic Courtyard of Vizcaya’s Main House served as the backdrop for the Summit of the Americas in 1994, where world leaders from across the Western Hemisphere gathered to foster dialogue and cooperation on various economic, social, and political issues. Discover a humorous anecdote involving a head of state, a nap, and a decorated room in the Main House in the video.

The journey of Vizcaya from a private retreat to a celebrated public museum has been one of extraordinary transformation, leaving an enduring legacy in Miami’s history. Explore its rich heritage and historical moments in the embedded video above.

Related Stories

Discover more about the art, artifacts and conservation work at Vizcaya.