A few weeks back my roommate (Caitlin) and I took a day trip down to Coconut Grove to visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. I was born and raised in South Florida but for some reason rarely explored Miami during my childhood, so this spot was definitely top of my list to get to.
A bit of history: The Vizcaya is the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering, who was a very wealthy international harvester in the early 1900’s. The planning and construction of Vizcaya lasted over a decade, from 1910 to 1922, so it’s just shy of being a century old. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, you will learn all about the decades of history and see first-hand the beautiful architecture, design and intricate detail that is still intact to this day. I’d even recommend packing a picnic and spending the afternoon outside in the gardens to enjoy!
As far as accessibility goes, for the most part I was able to navigate around on my scooter on the first level of the home, through the outside garden and the back portion of the home to overlook the bay. For the upstairs parts of the house, there was no elevator but there were large interactive screens that allowed me to sift through 360 degree images of the rooms.
Being a historical monument, I’m completely understanding that when this was built, accessibility was not a concern nor requirement. Ramps and elevators were not a part of the plans and fast forward to today, adding them in would probably cost thousands of dollars and respectively ruin the preserved architecture. With the devastating Notre Dame Cathedral fire that took place yesterday during renovations, the value of maintaining ancient buildings became even more clear to me, even if it does mean limiting the opportunity for those with disabilities to fully tour and experience.
With that, the Vizcaya had something installed that I have never seen before. I was able to ride my scooter onto a platform that then swiveled its way up a flight of stairs, allowing me to elevate to the entrance of the house. A video can be found on my Instagram page! It was a very cool experience and was extremely refreshing to know that add-ons were a possibility for existing monuments to utilize to allow people in similar circumstances as myself to have a first-hand, real life view of history.