Deering Estate at Cutler

Entrance Hall of the Stone House

You may not know Charles Deering, but you’ve probably heard of his company.  If you’re involved in farming or construction, it’s almost impossible not to know his company, if not actually used it products.

Charles Deering as Navy Officer

Charles Deering was born on July 31, 1852.  His father, William, founded the Deering Harvester Company.  Following graduation from the Naval Academy and service as a Navy officer until 1881, Charles became secretary of his father’s company.  In 1902, Deering Harvester merged with the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, forming International Harvester with Charles as chairman of the new company.

In 1916, Charles did what any well off man would do, he bought a town.  The town was Cutler, Florida, although town at the time Deering bought it was a bit of a misnomer.

Before the railroad, Cutler was South Florida’s growth center, not Miami.  The coming of Henry Flagler’s railroad promised a bright future for Cutler.  In 1900, one Flagler’s survey engineers, Dr. Samuel Richmond, bought a small cottage in Cutler and added a three-story addition, creating the Richmond Cottage and the first hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West.  Like other residents, Richmond eagerly anticipated the additional growth the railroad would bring Cutler.

Unfortunately, the Florida East Coast Railroad bypassed Cutler in 1904, signing the death warrant of the town.  One after the other, people and businesses moved closer to the railroad.  The once thriving town slowly dwindled to nothing.  Finally, the Richmond Cottage closed in 1915, ending the history of Cutler.

In stepped Charles Deering, who bought the Richmond Cottage and surrounding land.  After purchasing the cottage, Deering used it as his winter residence, enlarging the rooms and adding indoor plumbing.In 1921, Deering decided to make Florida his full-time residence.  With a love of Mediterranean style architecture, Deering built a Mediterranean-inspired stone house next to the Richmond Cottage.  Deering took up residence in 1922 and lived at the house until dying in his bedroom there on February 5, 1927, at the age of seventy-five.

During our recent trip to South Florida, we visited the Deering Estate.  The Estate consists of the two houses along with several acres of grounds.  Hurricane Andrew dealt an awful blow to the Estate in 1992.  Andrew almost completely destroyed the Richmond Cottage and severely damaged the Stone House.  The estate closed to the public during extensive reconstruction for the next several years.  It finally reopened to visitors in 1999.

Both homes are open for self-guided tours as well as scheduled guided tours.  The homes are sparsely furnished since the Deering relatives sold or relocated most of the artwork and furnishings in the years after Charles’ death and before Dade County bought the property.

The Estate is well-known for paranormal activity.  We encountered a few interesting happenings during our visits.

A peculiar feature of the Stone House is a wine cellar in the basement.  Keep in mind Deering built the home during prohibition.  A false bookcase hides the entrance, which is protected by a bank-vault type door.  Deering clearly desired protection for his “hooch.”  The wine cellar remained closed following a 1944 hurricane until the Estate staff forced it open in 1984.  Without prior knowledge of any activity connected with this location, and without saying anything as it happened, my wife and I both felt a heavy presence when entering into the wine cellar, as if something didn’t want people to enter.  I later learned many people report a similar sensation in the wine cellar.

Wine Cellar Entrance

I also attended an investigation/tour of the Estate hosted by the League of Paranormal Investigators.  LPI hosted an excellent event.  I encountered similar odd sensations in various parts of both homes that night.  LPI has investigated the Estate several times and encounters interesting occurrences every time.

Before leaving Miami, we returned one more time.  Interestingly enough, the presence in the wine cellar didn’t appear active initially, but seemed to manifest later on during our visit.  My wife had the sensation of being touched on the arm while going up the stairs in the Richmond Cottage, as if brushing into a spider web except no spider web was present.  We hope to return to the Estate to see what else we might experience.

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