“The Deering Estate preserves the 1920s era Miami estate of Charles Deering, Chicago industrialist, early preservationist, environmentalist, art collector, philanthropist and first chairman of the International Harvester Company. Nestled along the coast in South Dade, the Deering Estate is a cultural asset and historic site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As a 21st Century museum destination for tourists and local residents, a variety of signature events, programs, tours and classes are offered throughout the year.”
The Deering Estate consists of eight (8!!!) different ecosystems: Pine Rockland, Salt Marsh, Mangroves, Submerged Sea Grass Beds, Deering Estate Flow-way, Remnant Slough, Tropical Hardwood Hammock, and Beach Dune Chicken Key.
16701 SW 72nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33157
The Deering Estate is located in South Miami-Dade County in the Village of Palmetto Bay. There is very limited public transportation access to the Deering Estate. Car parking is ample and free, however. Detailed information is available on https://deeringestate.org/plan-your-visit/
This page on the Deering Estate website list hours and admission prices. If you live in Miami, though, a membership is the way to go. A university student membership is only $15.00 a year (as of November 2022)!! Deering Estate membership page.
Dedicated to preserve and protect the natural, archaeological, architectural and historic legacy of the Estate by using cutting-edge tools and established methods to steward the management and utilization of its sensitive resources, while educating and enhancing the public appreciation of the unique characteristics of the site through well-matched and multipurpose uses.
The Deering Estate is on the shores of Biscayne Bay. The National Park Service describes Biscayne Bay as, “…a shallow estuary. It is a place where freshwater from the mainland mixes with salt water from the sea. The bay serves as a nursery for marine life. Lush seagrass beds provide hiding places as well as food for a vast array of sea life. Many fish, crustaceans and shellfish spend a portion of their lives in the protective environment of the bay.”
Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of human inhabitation dating back 10,000 years on the grounds of what is now the Deering Estate! The history of the Deering Estate is rich, diverse, and complex. This tour will lead you on the footsteps of Paleo-Indians, the burial site of the Tequesta, introduce you to early northern settlers, explore the reality of segregation, see the world through the eyes of Charles Deering, and place you on the front lines of environmental preservation.
This photo is the portrait of an Afro-Bahamian worker that helped construct the People’s Dock of the Deering Estate. It is incumbent upon us, as well as historically important, to remember that the Deering Estate, similar to much of Miami, was built at a time of intense racial segregation. Many of the workers that built both the Deering Estate and Vizcaya were African-American or Afro-Bahamian. The working conditions were abysmal, as exemplified by this 1916 newspaper article of an accident at the Deering Estate that resulted in four deaths and five injuries.
VISITORS CENTER & MAIN ENTRANCE
The Visitors Center and the Main Entrance are different! The Visitors Center provides information, free parking, free restrooms, as well as a classroom and a theater. Many events are held in the theater. The Main Entrance to the Deering Estate, however, is a 3 minute walk north on Southwest 72nd Avenue to the intersection of 72 with Southwest 167th Street.
“The Richmond Cottage, originally built in 1896 as a two story balloon frame vernacular home for S. H. Richmond and his family, is one of the oldest wooden structures in Miami-Dade County and the last remaining structure of the former town of Cutler. In 1899, a three story gabled addition transformed the home to the area’s only inn (hotel) and it became an outpost for visitors conducting the business of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad. The Richmond closed for business in 1915 and was soon after purchased and renovated for a winter home by Charles Deering.” Deering Estate Historic Structures
Charles Deering based the design of the Stone House on Maricel, his house in Sitges, España (Spain).
“The three story Mediterranean Revival Stone House, designed by the Coral Gables architect Phineas Paist, was completed in 1922. With 18-inch poured concrete walls, coffered ceilings and centuries old iron fixtures it echoed his former Old World residences at Sitges and Tamarit (in España), but it also featured modern conveniences including a new Otis elevator. The Prohibition Era wine cellar secreted away Deering’s extensive collection of spirits and the East facing balconies and French doors provided the beauty of sunrise views and comfort of bay breezes. It was a showcase for his massive art collection and a peaceful place for him to live out his last remaining years.” Deering Estate Historic Structures
“A connoisseur of art, antiques, and fine wines, Charles Deering included a wine cellar in the design of the Stone House. Built in 1922 during the Prohibition Era (1919-1933) when it was illegal in the United States to produce, distribute, or sell alcohol, the cellar was hidden behind false-shelving and a Diebold bank vault (made in Canton, Ohio). It was one of the largest Prohibition-Era wine and liquor cellars in the southern United States.” Deering Estate Sign
The arts are a constant and vibrant presence at the Deering Estate. During regular operating hours, please feel free to knock on the doors of the artists studios in the Carriage House and Powerhouse (pictured above) studios. Note: as these are professional working artists, access to the studios is not always guaranteed.
“Consistent with founder Charles Deering’s own vision, the Deering Estate Artist in Residence Program offers professional visual, performing, literary, and cross-disciplinary artists the opportunity to pursue innovative projects and studio work, connect with other artists, and engage the public, while interacting with the historic, architectural, intellectual, archeological, and natural elements of the Estate’s inspiring environment. Since 2006, we have welcomed over 70 shared and collaborative residencies representing a broad scope of contemporary and traditional artistic practices.” https://deeringestate.org/arts/artists-in-residence/
The Deering Estate Boat Basin is the absolute best place in Miami to get up close and personal with manatees. The supply of fresh water combined with its calm nature, allow manatees to congregate and mate (!) in this basin. Due to the fragile marine life that the basin is home to, no watercraft of any type is allowed in. If you’re lucky, you may see see sharks, turtles, rays, and even dolphins. A cool Selfie Point can be found by walking along the protruding grassy ‘fingers’ that lead into the bay from the basin. The edge of the fingers can be considered the point of departure, bringing visitors an arms length away from the waters that Florida’s diverse maritime ecosystems are built on.
At special events throughout the year, visitors can witness one of the most stunning experiences in Miami—every day at sunrise and sunset, thousand of birds, especially ibises, commute from the mangroves to the mainland. This is an absolute Miami must.
Charles Deering had the Boat Basin built in 1916-1918 as a safe harbor for his two boats, the Barbee and Mar-y-cel. You can see the date inscribed in the central concrete platform.
“The island of Chicken Key, located approximately one mile offshore, was formed by the deposition of quartz and limestone sands by ocean currents. An 1899 survey by S. H. Richmond recorded a maximum elevation of three feet above sea level and historically, the island was characterized by a sand beach and low dunes. Dredge deposits in the 1940s increased elevations from 3 to 10 feet on most of the island, destroying the dunes. In 1996-1997, the County restored Chicken Key, removing dredged materials, connecting the mangrove forest and dune system, and re-creating the island’s original topography.” Deering Estate Natural Resources
Nicole Patrick and Andro Bailly, students of the FIU Honors College, regularly organize marine debris cleanups of Chicken Key. Participants canoe and kayak one mile out to the island. Then they fill the canoes with debris, picnic, swim, and kayak back.
The People’s Dock is exactly as named—free access to Biscayne Bay for all people. Located directly East of the Visitor’s Center, the People’s Dock is a place for fishing, improvised guitar playing, a picnic, or the perfect spot to do nothing.
“Deering Point (17350 Old Cutler Road Miami, FL 33157) is located adjacent to the C-100 Canal at the southern point of the Deering Estate property – approximately six blocks from the Deering Estate’s Main Entrance. The site known as “Deering Point” is a small (3 ½ acres) portion of the Deering South Addition, located adjacent to the C-100 Canal at the southern point of the Deering Estate property. Deering Point is the only location within 13 miles of downtown Miami that offers free public access to Biscayne Bay for canoeing, kayaking, wildlife viewing and fishing. Free public parking, restrooms, and shade pavilions are also available on a first come, first served basis.” Deering Estate Natural Resources
One of the most frustrating planning designs of Miami is the limited public access to Biscayne Bay. Deering Point is your solution. It has a free non motorized boat launch, and spectacular views of the sunrise. Take your picture at Deering Point—watch the birds come and go and enjoy the fresh Biscayne breeze at the southern edge of the Estate.
DEERING ESTATE EVENTS
The Deering Estate hosts an incredibly diverse set of events, spearheaded by Melissa Diaz, Exhibitions and Collections Manager and Lili Dominguez, Cultural Arts Curator. Become a member to attend a poetry reading, join an astronomical viewing, or feast at the annual Seafood Festival.
NATURE PRESERVE TOUR (ACCESSIBLE ONLY WHEN ACCOMPANIED BY STAFF)
🚨 The following sites are only accessible when accompanied with staff from the Deering Estate. The Deering Estate is home to 89 endangered and/or protected species. Limiting human traffic is essential to preserve them.🚨
Deering Estate Naturalists lead daily Nature Preserve Tours at 12:30 (from October to May). Check website for details. https://deeringestate.org/event/daily-tours/
DEERING ESTATE NATURE PRESERVES
Ever wonder what Miami was like before Columbus in 1492? Before Ponce de Leon in 1513? Before the exile of the Tequesta in 1763? Before the acquisition from España of Florida the USA in 1820? Before in incorporation of the City of Miami in 1896? Before suburban sprawl? There’s no better place to experience the authentic flora and fauna of Miami than in the Deering Estate Nature Preserve. Solution holes, mangroves upon mangroves, caves, disorienting amounts of trees, otters, ospreys, vultures, snakes, hermit crabs, and crocodiles are just a few of the native species here. Remember that with wildlife, you can always look but never touch.
The following sites are listed in alphabetical order.
Charles Deering’s objective was to have a self-sufficient homestead. This avocado grove was planted in addition to the mango grove close to the main entrance of the Nature Preserve.
Popularly referred to as the Cocaine Cowboys Plane, this small plane crashed in these mangroves in the 1990s and is still on site…slowly being consumed by the land. Urban myths and mystery surround this plane.
CUTLER CREEK BRIDGE
Cutler Creek is a fresh water connection between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay. It is essential to the Cutler Slough Rehydration Project. If you’re really, really super lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the resident otters.The facade of the bridge across Cutler Creek is made of native Oolite. At the right time of year, it is covered with cascading ferns and is quite stunningly beautiful.
CUTLER FOSSIL SITE (Not accessible to the public)
“The Cutler Fossil is a watering hole into which all manner of Pleistocene beasts toppled. Sandwiched between the limestone layers of the sinkhole, some 16 feet above the current sea level of the nearby Biscayne Bay, were bones of dire wolfs, mastodons, camels, llamas, saber-toothed tigers, and the American lion. Though the site is protected, the city has sprawled around it in the intervening 10,000 years. Looking down into the ancient pit from the ridge, you can hear the rumble of nearby cars. But the site is hidden and sheltered from the road and the water, protected by its isolation and its elevation.” Jessica Leigh Hester, Wired
“Based on carbon-dated plant material from hearths found after digging down into the layers of Ice Age bone, Cutler Fossil Site features evidence of human use dating to roughly 9700 BP (“before present”), lasting through the Archaic (5,000-2,500 BP) and into the Glades period (1,000 BP-1750 AD).That’s right: humans have been present in South Florida for roughly 10,000 years. To put such a large number into perspective, Khufu’s tomb (better known as the Great Pyramid of Giza) was constructed roughly 4,500 years ago.” Dig This! Public Archaeology in South Florida
The carving represents the tools of a mason: a square and a compass. In the upper right is a Taurus.
“The three great lights in Masonry are the Holy Bible, square, and compasses, which are thus explained: the Holy Bible is the rule and guide of our faith and practice; the square, to square our actions; the compasses, to circumscribe and keep us within bounds with all mankind, but more especially with a brother Mason.” Malcolm C. Duncan in Masonic Ritual and Monitor, 1866
FRESH WATER SPRING
Fresh water springs were abundant at the Deering Estate throughout the centuries. This spring regularly has a school of fish above it.
MIAMI ROCK RIDGE
“The Deering Estate sits atop the geological formation known as the Miami Rock Ridge, most prominent and visible in southern Miami-Dade County. The sedimentary ridge was formed more than 120,000 years ago, has elevations up to 25 feet above sea level, and serves as a topographical barrier between Biscayne Bay and the interior basin of the southern Florida peninsula. At the Deering Estate, visitors have a rare opportunity for up-close experiences with its “karst” features, which include solution holes, sink holes, razor rock, and caves – all created by historical movement of freshwater through limestone.” Deering Estate Natural Resources
“While exploring the hardwood hammocks you need to be careful where you step. You don’t want to fall into a solution hole…Solution holes like these are often found in the hardwood hammocks. When the wet season arrives, these holes fill with water and help give the hammocks added protection from possible fires (like a moat protecting a castle). Sometimes, animals like the American alligator will make these small wet ponds their homes too. Solution holes are formed gradually over time when limestone erodes or is dissolved. This process is caused by a solution, or mixture, of rainfall and the weak acid produced by the decaying leaves found all over the hammock floor.” National Park Service, Everglades
The Tequesta Midden, due east of the Avocado Grove, is tucked behind a trail that opens up to a shaded, serene, mangrove wetland. Scattered on the ground close to the waterline are bits of shell peaking from under the soil. These shell bits seem peculiar in nature. They fit perfectly in your hand, smoothed out, and spear-like. These are actually the tools Tequesta’s used to shuck shellfish, drill, and complete other daily tasks. Tools, effective and discarded alike, can be found in the Midden rubble. Dr. Vanessa Trujillo holds a conch shell that was used as a type of drill. It is thought a stick was inserted into the hole which enabled rapid rotation. Note: it is strictly forbidden for visitors to visit the midden without a Deering Estate staff member.
When standing on the midden, look for an opening in the mangroves. You’ll notice the water is deeper and clearer in one small section. This is a fresh water spring.
TROPICAL HARDWOOD HAMMOCK
“Tropical hardwood hammocks are one of many natural communities found in Florida, but one of the few that are characterized by tropical plants. The word “hammock” was first used by early inhabitants to mean a cool and shady place. Later, settlers of Florida used the word “hummock” to indicate areas that were slightly higher in elevation from the rest of the land. Today, the term hammock is used in Florida to describe forest habitats that are typically higher in elevation than surrounding area. Many of the trees and plants found in these habitats originated in the Caribbean Islands and are not found farther north. As a result, tropical hammocks represent one of the rarest plant communities in Florida. Both human and natural impacts have caused serious declines in these habitats, and 15,000 scattered acres of tropical forest that are mainly located in parks and preserves in South Florida and the Keys are currently listed as a threatened habitat type.” Deering Estate Natural Resources
TEQUESTA/CUTLER BURIAL MOUND
The Tequesta were the people living in what is today Miami when Ponce de Leon navigated into Biscayne Bay in 1513. There is evidence of a large Tequesta community living on the land of the Deering Estate, and the midden has revealed hundreds of shell tools. The Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound is one of only two unearthed Tequesta burial sites. The Tequesta, as a people, are extinct; there is not one existing image of them, nor is one word of their language documented.
“Tucked into a forest are the remnants of a Tequesta habitation site and burial mound. It is believed that 12 to 18 Native Americans, including women and children, are buried there in a circular placing, much like the spokes of a wheel. A 400- to 600-year-old oak tree looms over the burial mound, with its roots extending arm-like to cradle those buried beneath.” Sheila Steiglitz, Cutler Bay News
“In 1876, Henry E. Perrine (son of the famous botanist murdered at Indian Key) amused himself by excavating a burial mound near Biscayne Bay in present-day Charles Deering Estate Park while he visited the Addison family. He provided the following account: Using the pick and spade we soon came to skulls and bones of both adults and children, the skulls in nearly every instance showed that they had been buried with the face downwards, and with the toes toward the center of the mound.10 Perrine collected two of the best preserved skulls with the intention of delivering them to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Buffalo, New York. He forgot to pack them on his return trip north, however, and their present location is unknown.” Carr, Robert S. Digging Miami (p. 6). University Press of Florida. Kindle Edition.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Carr, Robert S. Digging Miami. University Press of Florida. Kindle Edition.