Monday, 12/26/11 - This was our day to go see the Deering Estate www.deeringestate.org , this was owned by John Deering, the brother of James Deering who owned the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (which we previous toured.) If you remember, (and why should you) these were the sons of William who started International Harvester Company....and everyone was very, very rich and of course this was before personal income taxes.
Believe me, these two homes could not have been more different. Around 1900 John Deering purchased the Richmond Cottage, which was the first hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West in Cutler, FL. He eventually bought up the entire town of Cutler and built right next to the Cottage in 1922, Stone House, which he used both of them as his winter home. It was interesting to see that when he built Stone House there was NO kitchen included....they cooked and ate in the Richmond Cottage. Stone House, a concrete house with 18 inch walls housed his vast art collection.
The most interesting room in Stone House was the wine cellar. This room was built during prohibition and has a huge vault door (think bank vault) but disguised with a dry-good shelving. In 1945 a hurricane flooded the cellar and rusted the vault door closed and it remained sealed for 45 years. When it was eventually opened over 4,000 bottle of champagne, wine and liquor bottles were discovered there. Of course everything had been ruined by salt water, breakage and insects but absolutely fascinating. The houses were beautifully decorated for Christmas and it was fun to see that. Unfortunately, when the houses and property were sold all the furnishings were taken by the family so there is no original furniture. However, the rooms were grand and the views out to the Bay were magnificent.
The homes are open all day for self guided tours but we took the only guided tour they offer at 10:30 am with our guide Linda. We were lucky it was only us and another family of three. Well, this family turned out to be a complete delight.....Amanda, a bright, darling 12 year old who is in the 7th grade, her mommy, and mommies boyfriend. Unfortunately, we never learned their names. Such an amazing story....they came here from Cuba 3 years ago and it was fascinating hearing the stories and telling us about life in Cuba.
After the tour we headed back to the car to have our lunch....you guessed it, our ice chest, chairs & Mimi's TV tray parked right in the parking lot watching the people come and go into the Deering Estate. After lunch he headed back on to the property to await the 12:30 pm tour of through the natural areas which are a mangrove forest, a boardwalk which led to an American Indian Burial Mound. There our guide Linda, showed and explained about artifacts from centuries back. On this tour we had our wonderful Cuban family plus 3 visitors from China. It truly was amazing learning about each of the people on our tour.....one of the young Chinese girls is a PhD student of Economics in Pittsburgh and I never learned about the others....however they ALL spoke English and it was wonderful to be able to talk with all of them. Of course they were equally amazed at our story.....bumming around the country for a year.
The grounds on this 450 acre bay front estate are incredibly beautiful. The view from these homes look right into Biscayne Bay. There is a "horseshoe" opening from the bay into their estate that manatees come into for the warm water that is there. They said last Saturday there were 6 to 8 manatees there. Fortunately, after our nature tour Will, Amanda and I went down there to see the four manatees people were talking about. They are huge animals, weighting up to 1000 lbs, but unfortunately they stayed "inside the horseshoe" and we were only able to see them when they came up for air. Not a great sighting but at least they were there.
It was truly a wonderful day (I guess I keep saying that....) the sights that we saw and the people that we met....Amanda said I reminded her of her grandmother in Cuba and I told her I don't have any grandchildren (only a grand puppy) and I could be her American grandma!!! Much luck and love Amanda and I know you will grow up to be a fine, young lady....here's hoping our paths cross again. Much love to all our family and friends.