Coconut Grove

Vizcaya’s ‘missing half’ opens to public with free tours

The old science museum building still sits on the Vizcaya property, but will eventually be demolished and pine rockland will be planted as it has been elsewhere on the property.
The old science museum building still sits on the Vizcaya property, but will eventually be demolished and pine rockland will be planted as it has been elsewhere on the property. emichot@miamiherald.com

Before Vizcaya Museum and Gardens starred in films like “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Iron Man 3,” it was the winter estate of businessman James Deering. The well-to-do of the 1900s, among them Thomas Edison and President Warren G. Harding, enjoyed lavish parties on the bayfront property. Pitbull recorded part of his music video for “Wild Love” in the mansion, and Ronald Reagan strolled in its gardens with Pope John Paul II in 1987.

That’s only part of Vizcaya’s story.

“The village is the other missing half of Vizcaya’s personality,” said Joel Hoffman, Vizcaya’s director.

Vizcaya Village is an extension of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, separated from the main house by South Miami Avenue. The historic village used to hold a farm, staff quarters and more that made the estate self-sufficient.

Vizcaya Village 02 EKM
Plans to restore Vizcaya Village, if approved by the county, would create new classrooms, greenhouses, and urban farming models. A garden is part of the Superintendent’s Lawn, where school gardening projects will be done. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

It also was the site of the old Miami science museum, which moved to Museum Park and reopened as the Frost Museum of Science. Now, Vizcaya’s administrators want to turn the village into a cultural hub and provide green space for residents, Hoffman said. To make that happen, the museum hopes to open a cafe, greenhouses and urban farm programs. The renovations are pending the approval of the County Commission.

Superintendents house north
Rendering of the Superintendent’s House, as Vizcaya proposes to renovate it. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

To build community awareness and celebrate Vizcaya’s centennial year, the museum is hosting open houses on Sunday and June 11, from noon to 4 p.m. Visitors can spend the afternoon on guided tours, art-making activities, and more — Hoffman described it as “friendly and folksy.” Food trucks will be at the village, as well as live music.

“The Village is a hidden gem that people have not been able to appreciate to the fullest,” Hoffman said.

Guests may be able to enjoy fresh, locally grown food the next time they visit the museum, Hoffman said. In the pilot garden, the village has successfully grown cilantro, basil, lettuce and more.

The museum also hopes to relocate the visitor’s center to The Village to create easier access to both properties.

“I hope that this will become a place where the public is talking about important environment and sustainability issues for our community,” Hoffman said.

Tickets to the events at Vizcaya Village are free and can be reserved at http://vizcaya.org/but do not include admission to the museum and gardens. Parking is limited, and Vizcaya staff encourages guests to get there on Metrorail.

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