Latvian immigrant Edward Leedskalnin spent 28 years using only native coral rock and homemade tools to create this amazing structure. Although many theories have sought to explain why he took on the seemingly impossible task, the most popular is unrequited love for his 16-year-old fiancee, Agnes Scuffs. Giving credence to that idea are the castle's recurring decorative motifs, which include celestial symbols and hearts. Even so, the mysterious, almost superhuman construction of the masterpiece is so incredible that it eclipses the story behind it.
Commonly referred to as "The Venice of America," Fort Lauderdale is also considered the yachting capital of the East Coast and is home to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. While the wealthy city stands on the cutting edge of fashion and the arts, it's also a fun-loving beachside community awash in souvenirs and sunscreen-wearing beach-goers. Picturesque surroundings, historic sights, museums, sidewalk cafés and a 22-block waterfront walkway contribute to the city's captivating appeal.
Teeming with natural, archaeological and historical appeal, the Deering Estate proves endlessly engaging. Excavations at the bayfront compound originally owned by Charles Deering (whose brother James built Vizcaya) have uncovered the remains of prehistoric animals, and evidence suggests that Paleo-Indians were here more than 10,000 years ago. Historic buildings also distinguish the 420-acre property – the 1922 Stone House, Richmond Cottage and 19th-century Richmond Hall. For an altogether different perspective of the estate, reserve a spot on the weekend canoe tour.
The fantastical Venetian Pool was created to satisfy the imaginative urges of local designer Denman Fink. In 1923, he transformed a rock quarry into a dramatically beautiful swimming pool that's still a favorite place to cool off. Its setting features canals, a man-made island, fountains, waterfalls, coral caves and other whimsical touches. The pool's impeccable condition is maintained by daily drainage and an evening refill of more than 800,000 gallons of artesian water. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Children under 3 are not permitted.
The streamlined buildings that comprise this district reflect the architecture of the '20s and '30s, when wealthy vacationers made Miami the resort destination of choice. The area, after its initial heyday, experienced a period of neglect, and tenants were largely retirees. Reinvigorated in recent decades, the pastel-hued neighborhood is again in vogue, mixing old and new with aplomb. The Art Deco Welcome Center provides a great introduction to the area and carries maps of notable structures. Tours of the district can be arranged through the Miami Design Preservation League.
George E. Merrick founded the City of Coral Gables, and now the residents of the area pay homage to the developer at this lovely home. Built in the early 1900s and restored to its former glory, the home is still stocked with many of the personal effects of the Merrick family. The historic landmark is also surrounded by well-maintained gardens.
Built in Spain in 1141, this Spanish monastery was taken apart and brought to the United States by William Randolph Hearst. The building is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Hearst intended the monastery to be reassembled in California, but the bricks were held in Miami due to possible contamination of the packing material. They were later moved to and stored in New York as Mr. Hearst had moved his attention to other ventures by that time. The building was purchased in 1951 by developers and moved back to Miami.
Constructed in 1916 for industrialist James Deering, this Italianate palace is often referred to as the Hearst Castle of the East. Intended to appear centuries-old at completion, it is absolutely rife with architectural detail and elaborate accents. In fact, more than a thousand artisans took five-plus years to complete the ornate flourishes. Deering was fascinated by 16th-century art and architecture, and most of his fine collection remains on display. The beautifully landscaped grounds aptly complement the building, whose name remembers the Basque term for a raised site.
Built in the late 1800s, the former home of Ralph Middleton is one of the oldest homes in the county and is situated on the shore of Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove. Here you have the chance to experience Miami's landscape style of long ago. The forest surrounding the home is hardwood hammock and is the last of its kind in the area. The unique architecture includes period furniture and wide porches that afford magnificent views.Tours are limited to 10 people and begin on the porch of the old house at 10am, 11:30am, 1pm, and 2:30pm.