MIM Fall Service Project: Deering Estate by Gianmarco Agostinone

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ABOUT

The Deering Estate contains one of the few pieces of land in Miami that have remained untouched by men for centuries. It consists of 444 acres of land, which in it is the Richmond Cottage, the Deering House, and a massive nature preserve (Charles Deering Estate). But its history goes further than that.

Centuries ago, there lived a group of natives that we now call the Tequestas. There is little recorded history of them, but we know that one of the places they resided in was at what we now know as the Deering Estate. They were hunters and gatherers that used the ocean as their supplier of food and tools. Crafting many sophisticated tools out of the shells they found. Unfortunately, during the 1500s, Europeans arrived and began the quick downfall of the civilization (Tequesta of Biscayne Bay). They were soon killed, captured and forced into slavery, or died of diseases, leaving only traces of their existence.

About 300 years later, S.H. Richmond came along and built one of the now oldest wooden structures in Miami Dade County (Deering Estate). He built the Richmond Cottage which was the areas only inn, becoming the perfect rest stop for visitors travelling through the area.

Soon after Charles Deering bought up the land to create a winter home for himself. Luckily, he did not gut out the natural landscape and only renovated a small portion around the Richmond Cottage. In fact, he even brought in renowned botanists David Fairchild and John Kunkle Small to help restore the area to its natural environment (Deering Estate).

Eventually in 1986, years after the passing of Charles Deering, his family sold the land to the State of Florida where it was than added to the National Registry of Historic Places (Deering Estate). Now, it is taken care of by Miami Dade County where they use this area to do research and educate people about Florida’s natural environment. They provide tours of the cottage as well as hikes on the trails, but they do everything in their power to preserve the natural landscape and the animals living in it.

Historic Holiday Stroll CC By 4.0

SERVICE WORK

I have done two events with the Deering Estate so far, one working with the local artist John Bailly, whose studio is located at the Deering Estate, and the other at the Historic Holiday Stroll hosted by the Deering Estate.

Working with John Bailly was an insightful experience in the life of an artist. There I helped him set up his paintings and move them so they can be photographed for the LnS Gallery’s magazine. It was interesting hearing about the thought process behind his paintings especially when he was being interviewed by a local reporter.

Learning how the Deering Estate provides a residence program was fascinating and I would have never known about this if I had not gone there. It is good that they support the local art community and it provides a unique experience as the studios are on the estate which are a natural area, something that highly contrasts most of Miami. This most likely helps inspire the artists there to create art that advocates for preservation which is what the Deering Estate is trying to accomplish.

The other event I worked at was the Historic Holiday Stroll. This is an event hosted by the Deering Estate every year for the past decade. This is a beautiful event where the estate decorates the area leading to and surrounding the cottage with holiday decorations. They hang lights all over the trees, bring vendors in to sell holiday treats, play Christmas movies, give out free hot chocolate and cookies, and most importantly you can meet Mrs. Clause when she reads for the kids. It is truly a winter magic land. Best of all, the money they make helps support the Estate to further their research and preservation of the lands.

While I was there, I was tasked to meet and greet the guests at the entrance. I had to also keep track of the number of guests coming in as they use this number to help plan for the needed supplies for the next year. At the end I was tasked to advertise the future events happening at the Deering Estate and pass out calendars to everyone so they can hopefully come back again.

While what I did was simple, it was nice giving back to the place I have grown to love. After going here a few times a year, I’ve always found out something new and fascinating about this place. It is truly one of the few beautiful and natural areas left in Miami and coming here has only made me want to help as much as I can. Unfortunately, they don’t get even close to the number of volunteers they need. The last event they hoped for at least 20 volunteers and ended up with just 4, which is just sad as people don’t understand how amazing and important this place is for our city. It is one of the few places where you can get in touch with your geological ancestors and roots. I plan on volunteering here many more times and hopefully am able to encourage others to do the same.

Volunteering With John Bailly CC By 4.0

SOURCES

“Charles Deering Estate.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Nov. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Deering_Estate.

“Miami Museums: Miami Historic Landmarks: The Deering Estate.” Deering Estate, 12 Dec. 2019, deeringestate.org/.

The Tequesta of Biscayne Bay, fcit.usf.edu/florida/lessons/tequest/tequest1.htm.

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