Across the Nation / Across the World

Miami Social Diary: Vizcaya 7th Annual Preservation Luncheon

The Social Climb. Guests scaled one of the garden's many magnificent staircases to reach the top of the Garden Mound where a reception preceded Vizcaya's 7th Annual Preservation Luncheon. Great fun! Planning is already underway for next year's Vizcaya Centennial, 1916-2016.
Viva Vizcaya! Seventh Annual Preservation Luncheon
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens http://vizcaya.org

By Augustus Mayhew

On a beautiful summer day in March, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens welcomed its boldest fashion-forward supporters to the 7th Annual Preservation Luncheon, known informally as the Hat Luncheon. By noon, the event's heads had greeted 325 patrons for a champagne reception high atop the garden's shaded aerie before strolling through the Formal Gardens to a luncheon beneath a tent installed on the waterfront East Terrace overlooking the Barge and Biscayne Bay. Guests donned fascinators and fedoras, headbands and hatinators, panamas and pillboxes. Reflecting a refreshing multi-generational spectrum, the luncheon's supporters, whether Kiki, Cuca, Lili, Lulu, Lola, or Betty, represented Miami's stature as mega-hemispheric international destination. The popular gathering benefits the organization's notable ongoing preservation and conservation projects.
The luncheon's proceeds support the extensive work that remains to be done in the Main House, including the renovation of plumbing, electrical and environmental systems and repair or replacement of building "envelope" components, such as the roof, windows and doors. As part of this process, the perforated metal hurricane screens will be replaced that diminish the appearance of the Main House from outside and obstruct views of the surrounding landscape from within. The renovation of the Main House also encompasses the conservation of historic artworks, furnishings and finishes, many of which are attached to the structure – Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.
East elevation. From 25 May 2015 through 15 October 2015, renovation projects will take place inside Vizcaya's Main House, including restoration of the structural columns and archways in the Entrance Loggia, Enclosed Loggia and East Loggia; and replacing the East Loggia storefront glass with a new impact resistant system. Events will be permitted while the restoration takes place. However, there will be scaffolding and temporary barriers for the duration. The only access between the interior and exterior will be via the Entrance Loggia, but with temporary partitions and/or barriers – Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, aerial view, postcard. The event began on the Garden Mound's circular shaded park in front of the Casino, the estate's highest point overlooking the southerly Venetian Landing. After a ramble through the Formal Gardens, guests congregated on the villa's breezy bayside East Terrace for the Preservation Luncheon. State Archives of Florida.
Champagne Reception @ Garden Mound
Before lunch, guests gathered on the Garden Mound for champagne, mojitos and/or lemonade, along with the tastiest mini-Beef Wellingtons and lobster bisque.
For more than an hour during the reception, a low-key crooner sang nightclub tunes from another era in sync with a prerecorded tape. He was actually quite good, a classy addition rather than the usual combo, quartet, or piano man.
The luncheon's central committee: Linda Levy Goldberg, Lydia Touzet, Sonia Gibson, honorary chair Swanee DiMare, Barbara Hevia, and Laura Munilla.
The luncheon's garden entrance and staircase to the Garden Mound.
A platoon of valet parkers at the ready.
The luncheon's leaders stand for their official photographs in front of the Casino.
Joel Hoffman, executive director of Vizcaya, and William Meyersohn, board member Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Trust.
Seen in the Casino overlooking the Venetian Terrace: Jean Doyen de Montaillou, Natalie Pray, Michael Kovner, Nancy Reynolds, Lucy and Nat Day, Polly Reed, and Myrna Haft. Lucy and Nat invited me to the event.
Laura Munilla, a board member of the Museum and Garden Trust. Sensational hat!
Swanee DiMare, the luncheon's honorary chair. Lydia Touzet, co-chair of the Preservation Luncheon.
Ann King, Lesli Brown, and Bronwyn Miller.
Kim Caceres and Yumi Yazawa.
Carol Iacovelli and Linda Levy Goldberg. Hutton Wilkinson.
Hats Galore!
Sculpture and artworks conservation are part of Vizcaya's ongoing renovations.
Nancy Reynolds.
Polly Reed.
Hutton Wilkinson and Joel Hoffman.
South elevation and terrace, opening onto the Formal Gardens.
Models perched along the terrace staircase, accessorized with Graff diamonds and Bal Harbour's latest looks.
Guests make their way from the South Terrace to the East Upper Terrace where the luncheon takes place.
Garden restoration has included the cyclical pruning of the live oaks and Australian pines in the formal gardens. In various locations we have also re-created the original configuration of grass and other plantings, and acquired replicas of historic pots that were long ago destroyed. And, in natural areas filled with native plants, we have removed the exotic specimens that threaten our sensitive ecosystem. Our long-term plans require not only the maintenance and replacement of plants, but also overhaul of the century-old pumps and pipes that operate our fountains and the design and construction of new lighting, irrigation and drainage systems – Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.
East elevation. The luncheon tent.
There was a prevailing southeast breeze off the bay during lunch.
Thierry's Catering. Miami's premier caterer and special events designer.
Carol Crapple and Jean Doyen de Montaillou.
Table #1, L to R: Polly Reed ,Nat Day, Carol Crapple, Jean Doyen de Montaillou, Nancy Reynolds, Natalie Pray, Myrna Haft, Michael Kovner, and Lucy Day.
My view from the table to the beyond.
Kristin Ducote. She was sitting at a table across from us and I was fascinated by her confident sense of style.
Carol Crapple and Kristin Ducote. When I mentioned my beguilement at the table, Carol turned around and presto; she and Kristin knew each other from New Orleans. Kristin Ducote's luncheon shoes.
Vizcaya, East and North elevations.
Vizcaya, North elevation. There are many stylistic similarities between this elevation of Hoffman's Vizcaya and Mizner's original façade for the Everglades Club facing Worth Avenue.
Vizcaya, Central courtyard.
Vizcaya's orchid program was established and is still supported through the generous bequest of David A. Klein, an orchid lover who sought peace in Vizcaya's gardens. The David A. Klein Orchidarium, located on the north side of the Main House, was first created in 2001 in what originally was called the North Lawn. In the 1910s James Deering had requested a landscape full of orchids in the forests surrounding the North Lawn, and to honor the wishes of both Klein and Deering, this site was selected for the Orchidarium. The first Orchidarium included a non-historic pergola with stone columns and a wooden trellis. Because of significant weathering and hurricane damage, we realized it was time to renovate the garden in 2010. A very popular garden for photography, the David A. Klein Orchidarium was reopened to the public in 2011—gloriously restoring the North Lawn while accommodating an expanded horticultural function for the benefit of our visitors – Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.
Vizcaya, East elevation and Barge.
Vizcaya, "The Grand Illusion – creating a past that never existed …" Located on the opposite sides of the Piazza at Vizcaya's current main entrance, are two slightly larger than life-size marble statues of Spanish explorers. Said to be the work of Giovanni Marchiori, the eighteenth-century sculptures were not voyagers when initially created, but instead portrayed Italian architectural master Andrea Palladio and sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini. With their 1919 installation at Vizcaya, the statues were modified to fit the mold of Vizcaya owner James Deering's evolving fable. Deering and his artistic director Paul Chalfin decided to alter the identities of the statues to Juan Ponce de León, Florida's European founder, and Sebastián Vizcaíno, Vizcaya's namesake. The figures now display the inscriptions "PONCE D LEON" and "BEL VIZCAYA." All reference to the Italian architects is lost but for the records. Bernini morphed into Ponce de León (a bust at his feet was replaced with a globe incised with the Florida peninsula to cement his new identity), and Palladio became Bel Vizcaya. "BEL VIZCAYA" is no one. He is but a fairytale creation of a Spanish explorer. And "Vizcaya" is somewhat of a misnomer. While brainstorming an appropriate name for his estate, Deering had been told by local young adult writer Kirk Munroe that Vizcaíno had explored the waters off Miami. Munroe, it turns out, was better at writing adventure fiction than knowing historical facts. Vizcaíno's travels brought him to the California coast, but never to Florida. Apparently there was another Vizcaíno, a navigator on de Leon's crew, but it's unclear if he ever saw Florida, and he was not famous by any account. Deering continued to consider the name even after research revealed the error. He wrote, in a 1915 letter to Chalfin, "I have finally yielded historic accuracy to my sense of beauty." The next day, in a telegram to Chalfin, Deering wrote, "WILL … ACCEPT NAME VIZIAYA [sic]." It's perfectly Vizcaya. In the naming, Deering chose beauty over accuracy, striving for a concept rather than the truth. Like many objects at Vizcaya, the two "swashbuckling statues," as Deering called them, were manipulated to serve a perceived need, transformed to fit a myth. Vizcaya is a story within stories—Deering and Chalfin's fabrication within the larger fictions of Miami, and of Florida—all creating a past that never quite existed. These eighteenth-century sculptures of 16th and 17th-century artists were reworked for placement in a nascent swampy city founded four years before the twentieth century. – Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.