Deering Bay Yacht and Country Club sits on over 220 acres of land rich in history, flora and fauna. Here is a little background on how Deering Bay came to be known as South Florida's hidden gem.
The area where Deering Bay sits, which used to be known as Cutler, was first explored in the late 1800's when William C. Cutler, a leading practitioner of medicine and surgery from Chelsea, Massachusetts visited the area and fell in love. Famous for its high ground, its hardwood hammock, its lush vegetation and its accessibility to Biscayne Bay the area remained hidden to most early visitors for some time. Although Dr. Cutler's friend William Fuzzard cut a road through the hammock to Coconut Grove sometime after 1883, known today as the State Historic Highway Old Cutler Road, Cutler remained a place apart. In 1900, Dr. S. H. Richmond opened the Richmond Cottage that catered to the kind of people who were attracted to Cutler's natural beauty and seclusion. One of those people was Charles Deering, famously responsible for the creation of the Deering Estate and Villa Vizcaya, local landmarks.
In the late 1910's, 850 acres of marshland, seashore, mangroves and forests were purchased from various owners by the US Government for the creation of the U.S. Army Signal Corp's Cutler Aerial Gunnery Field to be used as a U.S. Army pilot training base. Over the next few years and culminating in September of 1918, the Army dredged a portion of the bayside marsh to create an airfield, a lagoon for water landings, channels to Biscayne Bay and ultimately finished with a base featuring deluxe conditions as described in an article in the Miami Metropolis of August 20, 1918. On November 15th, 1918 the airfield was officially named after Victor Emmanuel Chapman, the first U.S. flier to be killed in France during World War I.
Three days after the renaming ceremony, World War I ended and construction on the Chapman Field Military Reservation officially ceased. After the war, the property was declared surplus by the War Department but no clear title could be conveyed and the property sat unused until Dr. David Fairchild and others convinced the Secretary of War, John W. Weeks to give a portion of the field to the USDA for a Plant Introduction Garden. This area grew into what is known today as the USDA Subtropical Horticulture Research Station, Deering Bay's neighbor to the northwest. On a portion of the land outside the USDA station, the government maintained an airfield used by reservist who practiced over Biscayne Bay during the winter months. After a period of quiet and then attempted development by both the military and Dr. David Fairchild, the onset of the American involvement in World War II brought action back to the airfield. Unfortunately the airfield proved too small for modern military planes and in August of 1942 was leased to the Embry-Riddle Corporation to train civilian and military pilots. At the end of the war, a contract was given to the corporation to provide technical training to returning vets under the GI Bill. In 1947, Embry-Riddle unsuccessfully tried to turn the field into a commercial airport but this was denied by Dade County and eventually the company abandoned the field and moved to Opa-Locka.
Over the next few years, the property was declared surplus and eventually the University of Miami and Dade County acquired the land in 1949 from the U.S. Government. In October of 1956, developer Ben Cooper leased the land from the University and the USDA to build Kings Bay Country Club. His plan was to use the country club as an amenity for the 68 acre, 150 unit housing development by the same name. Kings Bay Country Club thrived under the ownership of Washington, DC businessman Gustave Ring and grew into a well known golf course, lodge and country club throughout the region.
In 1980 the country club was sold to Phil Revitz and Alan Gordich and again in 1981 to Kenneth Rosen and Edward Easton where it continued operation until the late 80's. In 1990, Easton along with Armando Codina and Jeb Bush formed the partnership Deering Bay Associates for further development. After completely redeveloping the property, in 1991 it was launched with much fanfare under its current name, Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club.
In early 1993, Former President George H.W. Bush, his son Jeb, Arnold Palmer and former Deering Bay resident and Yankee Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio played a round of golf together in celebration of the completion of Hurricane Andrew repairs to the golf course. At the end of 2007, Arnold Palmer returned to play Deering Bay once again after successful completion of a regrassing and renovation project by his famed design team. Arnold Palmer Design and the leadership of Deering Bay took a phenomenal golf course & clubhouse and made it even nicer, ensuring Deering Bay Yacht and Country Club's position as one of the most prestigious country clubs in the area.
Written by Ethan Shapiro and frequently cited from an article written by Raymond G. McGuire (formerly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture)
For more in-depth information about the history of Chapman Field and Victor Chapman, click on the following links to read articles published in the Community Newspaper's Pinecrest Tribune:
Click here to read Part 1
Click here to read Part 2
Links by permission of the Community Newspapers