Those who become millionaires face a pressing problem: what to do with all that money?
Millionaires can simply hoard their money and keep working to earn more, but, then, what’s the point?
There’s the obvious opportunity for millionaires to indulge in endless debauchery, but they risk losing the unburdened use of their money if they become incapacitated or dead. While they can afford a splendid funeral, they may not enjoy it quite so much.
A few choose the high road: donating it to do good works (variously defined). I’ve written about one remarkable such bequest by a man with virtually unlimited wealth, the Getty Museum. CLICK HERE.
The most common approach is to buy things: lots of them, and extremely expensive ones. Millionaires, though don’t call it “buying” or “shopping:” they call it “collecting.” They can collect Monets or Van Goghs or Ferraris or Elvis Presley special edition bourbon decanters or anything they want: They’re millionaires!
Eventually, another problem arises: They need a place to house their collection. (Ferraris, for example, take up a lot of space.) Ah, then another vista opens: They build an estate in which to display their collection. Some build or acquire multiple estates. Problem solved.
This occasional “Millionaire Estates” series of blog posts will visit a few such estates. To start, let’s travel to the shore of Biscayne Bay, on the south edge of Miami, Florida, in the part of town known as Coconut Grove. In about 1910, James Deering, who was born into the family that owned International Harvester Corp, already had homes in Chicago, New York, Paris and a country place outside of Chicago.
Deering, though, was an ambitious (renowned) connoisseur and collector, had lots of stuff, and needed another place in a climate suitable for his failing health. He set about building the Villa Vizcaya on the shore of Biscayne Bay (“Vizcaya” is the Portuguese equivalent of “Biscayne”). The house has more than 70 rooms.
The estate originally included 180 acres, and Deering established not only the Italian Renaissance-style mansion, but formal gardens, produce gardens, lagoons, fountains, statuary and other features in mind-boggling profusion.
Construction of the villa took from 1914-1923, and Deering only lived there until he died in 1925. After that, the estate endured declining fortunes (it is particularly prone to hurricane damage). Heirs sold off some of the acreage and the villa fell into disrepair. Preservation efforts launched in the 1950s have paid off. Today, the estate is open to the public as the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. You can walk the grounds and tour the house, more than 70 rooms of which are chock-a-block with Deering’s collections. The interior contains a staggering array of things, but you’ll have to see it for yourself. I’ll focus on the exterior in this article.
To quote from the official website: “Vizcaya was a very modern house…. It was built largely of reinforced concrete, with the latest technology of the period, such as generators and a water filtration system. Vizcaya was also equipped with heating and ventilation, two elevators, a dumbwaiter, a central vacuum-cleaning system and a partly automated laundry room.”
The area surrounding the estate is, by nature, a subtropical forest. Deering and his designers added an elaborate scheme of plantings, exterior architecture, paths and water features that take some time to view. The geometric parterres are one portion:
There are other areas, including the Secret Garden, Maze Garden, Fountain Garden and the Theater Garden.
There’s also an orchidarium. Millionaires can build whatever they want.
My favorite feature, though is directly adjacent to the plaza on the bay side of the mansion. Sited out in the water, accessed by a bridge, is the Stone Boat.
This is, so far as I’m concerned, the ultimate outdoor entertainment venue. Definitely put the band out there.
Do you have a favorite millionaire (or billionaire) estate? Schonbrunn Palace? Versailles? Biltmore Estate? I’m always glad to have your comments.
In the future, I anticipate reporting on the ne plus ultra of American millionaire estates. Stay tuned.
© Brad Nixon 2016