LivingTravelHistory of Casa Casuarina

History of Casa Casuarina

This luxurious mansion has been given many names, including the Casa Casuarina, the Amsterdam Palace, and more recently The Villa By Barton G. But most will always think of it as the Versace Mansion as it is most famous as the old house and murder. site of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace. Learn about the long and eventful history of South Beach’s most famous mansion.

The beginnings of Casa Casuarina

The mansion was originally built in 1930 by architect, author, and philanthropist, Alden Freeman. Mr. Freeman was the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. He modeled the mansion after the oldest house in the Western Hemisphere, the “Alcazar de Colón” in Santo Domingo. The “Alcázar de Colón” was built in 1510 by Diego Colón, son of the explorer Cristóbal Colón. Freeman used bricks from this old house in the construction of Casa Casuarina.

Freeman updated the mansion with Moorish tiles, mosaics and tapestries, and classic busts. He liked to entertain his free-spirited friends there, including the philosopher and artist Raymond Duncan. When Freeman died in 1937, Jacques Amsterdam bought the property. It was renamed “The Palace of Amsterdam” and served as a 30-unit apartment building. Many artists resided there, attracted by the architecture and beauty of the mansion.

Casa Casuarina becomes the Versace mansion

In 1992, the mansion was bought by the famous Italian fashion designer, Gianni Versace, for a price of $ 2.9 million. He also bought an empty hotel next door, the Revere Hotel, and used the property to make additional room for expansion. Versace added in a south wing, garage, pool and garden areas, and also did many renovations and trimmings.

Versace’s demolition of the Revere Hotel was highly controversial at the time. In 1993, the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) opposed the demolition of the 1950 hotel, noting that it was an important historic site and that it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After 6 months of fighting, Versace was allowed to go ahead with the demolition. Critics believe the MDPL’s efforts were no match for Versace’s fame, influence and purchasing power.

For the next several years, Versace and his partner Antonio D’Amico organized lavish parties and fashion shows on the estate. On July 15, 1997, at the age of 50, Versace was murdered on the front steps of the mansion by sworn killer Andrew Cunanan, after returning home from a walk down Ocean Drive. Cunanan had already killed 4 other people during the previous 3 months, then committed suicide just a week after shooting Versace. Cunanan’s motive for the killing spree is still unclear.

The mansion today

After Versace’s death, the mansion was auctioned and bought in 2000 by telecommunications mogul Peter Loftin. The mansion was converted into a private club in September 2000. Then, in December 2009, it was reopened by restaurateur Barton G. Weiss The Villa By Barton G. It served as a luxury boutique hotel, restaurant and event space.

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