Deering Estate History


Please visit the Deering Estate’s History page

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of 10,000 years of continuous human inhabitation on the grounds of what is now the Deering Estate. The oldest human remains found at the Deering Estate were found at the Cutler Fossil Site. “The Cutler Fossil Site excavated in the 1980’s revealed a Paleo Indian shelter and bones of mega fauna from the Pleistocene Era when sea levels were considerably lower.”

Director Jennifer Tisthammer leads FIU Honors College students on a hike to the Cutler Fossil Site . (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“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

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. 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.

The Tequesta Burial Mound at the Deering Estate in Miami (JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“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

FIU Honors students at Deering Estate (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“The oldest existing buildings on the estate are those built by the Richmond family and Charles Deering. In 1896, Samuel H. Richmond built a pioneer home for his family on the estate as part of the settlement of the Town of Cutler. In 1900, an addition to the home was built and then opened to the paid public as The Richmond Hotel – the first hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West. The graceful Mediterranean revival–style Stone House, built by Charles Deering to showcase his valuable art collection, was constructed in 1922.” Deering Estate History

“From 1913-1918, the wealthy Chicago industrialist Charles Deering purchased hundreds of acres of land where the high ground of the Miami Rock Ridge and the fresh water of the Everglades meets the Biscayne Bay.” Deering Estate History

The Deering family earned their wealth primarily through the Deering Harvester Company, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery.

“In 1916, Deering purchased and renovated the Richmond Inn, the area’s only lodging facility, and established it as a winter home for himself and his wife Marion, adding additional support structures to establish a self-sustaining homestead.” Deering Estate History

The Stone House at the Deering Estate. (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“By 1922, the Stone House was completed and was being filled with the tapestries, paintings, books and antique furnishings he (Charles Deering) had spent decades collecting.” Deering Estate History

“Charles Deering died in 1927, but the Estate remained with his heirs until 1986 when it was purchased by the State of Florida, and added to the National Registry of Historic Places.” Deering Estate History

An explosion on Biscayne Bay led to 4 immediate deaths, and one other victim succumbed to injuries.

On 15 November 1916, five men died in the dredging of the channel leading into the Deering Estate. These men were all either African-American or Afro-Caribbean. Read the Miami Daily Metropolis article from 29 November 1916.

Deering Estate History website
Jessica Leigh Hester in Wired
Sheila Steiglitz, Cutler Bay News

2019 April Cutler Fossil Site
2018 Fall Cutler Fossil Site
2018 Fall Tequesta Burial Mound 

John William Bailly 19 March 2020

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