The Kampong home and gardens is a lovely, exotic surprise tucked away on nearly eleven lushly landscaped acres in Coconut Grove, with spectacular views of Biscayne Bay. The land originally belonging to some French aristos, was then purchased by a woman doctor who lived and worked there. In 1916, it was purchase for $25,000 by Alexander Graham Bell's daughter, Marian Fairchild, who lived there during winters with her husband, Dr. David Fairchild. As Director of Plant Introductions for the US Department of Agriculture , he collected and introduced over 30,000 plants and their variations from South and Central America, Africa, and Asia, planting many of them in his own garden. He selected rare, beautiful, exotic tropical plants, ranging from flowers, fruits, and the bread nut tree to the baobab, orange champaca, giant ficus, mango, pomelo, bamboo, and curry leaf trees. Kampong also boasts one of the largest salt water mangrove preserves in the area.
The estate was next purchased by Dr. Catherine Sweeney who was a preservationist and botanist. She not only made Kampong beautiful - she introduced landscaping, renovated the Southeast Asian- Spanish influenced home, and stocked it with beautiful art, sculpture, and yellow rosewood details - but ensured its future by registering it on the National Register of Historic Places. Place and eventually donating it to the Pacific Tropical Botanical Gardens.
It is not as easily accessible as most attractions. Kampong is also a research center so a visit requires a bit of planning. It is open Tues-Fri from 10-12 by appointment only. They offer two-hour guided tours on selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:30 and reservations are recommended, although four of us just were able to walk in one Wednesday and join the scheduled tour. The tours are given by volunteers who are enthusiastic and passionate about Kampong. The more important thing, however, is less what they have to say than that they enable you to visit and enjoy this beautiful place.
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