Kampong giving tours of Fairchild’s historic estate

 

Kampong offering tours of Fairchild’s historic Coconut Grove estate.

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By Daniel Ducassi

Visitors of the Kampong in Coconut Grove can explore the 11-acre bay front estate and gardens of renowned botanist and plant explorer David Fairchild.

In January, the Kampong is offering guided tours of what was once the winter home — and eventually the permanent home — of the legendary plant collector Fairchild and his wife Marian. The tour includes a behind-the-scenes look at their kitchen, lab and library, which were previously not open to the public.

The two-story, 1928 house, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The sloping lawn runs from the house, past the patio, past the tennis court and opens onto a breathtaking view of Biscayne Bay and the Key Biscayne lighthouse.

Named for the Malay or Javanese word for a village or cluster of houses, the Kampong is home to more than 2,000 varieties of tropical and subtropical fruits, palms and flowering trees, shrubs, and vines, many of them collected by Fairchild in his worldwide travels.

Fairchild, the namesake of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, is known for having introduced a large variety of delectable edibles to the United States as head of the plant introduction program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including soybeans, mangos and nectarines.

Those who visit the garden can find mango and avocado trees that Fairchild grafted to grow several different types of each fruit on one tree, as well as citrus trees native to countries as far off as Sri Lanka.

Visitors will also find a large ficus nicknamed “The Wedding Tree” because those who have been married beneath its canopy — including Fairchild’s own daughter — have never been divorced.

After Fairchild and his wife died, the home was purchased by Catherine Sweeney, a botanist and philanthropist, and her husband, Edward, an attorney. In 1984, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Catherine gave the property to the National  Tropical Botanical Garden, which had been chartered by Congress and headquartered in Hawaii. She lived there until her death in 1995.

The mission of The Kampong is to serve as the U.S. mainland educational center for the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

“We love sharing The Kampong story with visitors – many tell us they have lived in Miami all their lives and have never been here!” said Director Ann Parsons in a press release.

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