Behind These Gates

Peek inside Miami Beach’s most infamous mansion.

The front steps of Casa Casuarina are undoubtedly the most infamous and morbid landmark on Ocean Drive. Every day tour groups stop at the site where iconic fashion designer Gianni Versace lost his life. They snap photos as their guides recount the macabre details of July 15, 1997, one of Miami Beach’s darkest days. To tourists like these, the legend of the house — with its Moroccan-style rooftop deck, 10,000-tile mosaic pool, designer frescoes, and private Medusa-themed dining room — still looms large as a permanent symbol of SoBe glamour. Before the house at 1116 Ocean Dr. was known as the Versace mansion, it was called the Amsterdam Palace, named by its owner Jack Amsterdam, who purchased the house in 1937. And before that, Alden Freeman built it in 1930 as an homage to the oldest house in the Western Hemisphere: the legendary Alcazar de Colón in Santo Domingo. For the very first time in the building’s history, it is being opened to the public for a limited time. You can wander these storied hallways during The Casa Experience, a special guided tour of this mysterious mansion.

Fifty bucks will get you past those black metal gates, where 20 guests at a time will begin a 45-minute tour. Tours start at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 2 p.m., but if you’re serious about seeing these sights, arrive early — admission is first come, first served. And you should act fast — The Casa Experience takes place only through September 30. After that, admission will revert back to only the chic and wealthy. Call 305-672-6604, or visit www.casacasuarina.com to reserve an experience of your own.
Sept. 2-30, 2008

 
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