Vizcaya was the winter residence of American industrialist James Deering. He chose a bayfront site in Miami, Florida for his tropical winter home because of the location's temperate winter climate and his appreciation of the native hardwood trees.
When he began building his winter home, Deering chose Paul Chalfin, a young New York painter, to help supervise the entire project. Deering and Chalfin modeled the house to appear like a 400-year-old Italian estate.
The expansive gardens were designed by landscape architect Diego Suarez, who worked with Chalfin for seven years. They used natural and constructed elements borrowed from Renaissance Italian and French designs for the 10-acre site.
Information from: http://www.vizcayamuseum.com/learn-history.asp