While wandering some of the back roads along Biscayne Bay, we came across the Deering Estate at Cutler. The 444 acres along the edge of the bay now belongs to the State of Florida and is an historic site and is also used as an environmental and archeological research area.
The estate was created when Charles Deering purchased the Richmond Cottage in 1913 and the first 312 acres to establish a winter residence for his family and to house part of his large art collection. The cottage was the only hotel between Miami and Key West. When the railroad bypassed the busy town of Cutler in favor of Perrine in 1904, Cutler started a rapid decline and the hotel closed in 1915.
Deering was an avid supporter of the fine arts. He started his working life as a cadet at the Naval Academy and served 8 years in the service. He then returned home to work in the family dry good business. He developed most of his wealth after going to work at E.H. Gammon's harvester manufacturing in Illinois. Eventually, he was managing director of several companies merging to form International Harvester.
On the estate today the two main building, Richmond Cottage and the Stone house, have been restored by the state after the destruction caused by hurricane Andrew and provide a view to life there in the early part of the 1900’s. One of the interesting parts of the main stone house is the wine cellar in the basement. It was used during prohibition to store thousands of bottles of wine and alcohol. It was hidden behind a movable book shelf and a bank style vault door. It was shut off after an earlier hurricane and remained locked and forgotten for over forty years until it was rediscovered after hurricane Andrew. Unfortunately, all of the bottles were ruined.
The grounds provide a great view of the bay and a number of opportunities for hiking and enjoying the natural beauty as it might have appeared over hundred years ago.
As an aside, it is also interesting to note that his half brother James, also a dedicated art patron built his mansion Vizcaya closer to Miami along the bay. These two estates remain a big attraction.
After Charles Deering’s death in 1927, the estate remained with the family until it was sold to the state in 1985.