The Roaring Twenties were in full swing in Miami, when the Cuban Consulate was established in NW Dade County. Cuban materials and labor were imported for its construction. Moorish arches and Spanish tiles exemplified a luxurious Cuban-style villa.
It was completed in time to survive the Hurricane of 1926 that ripped through Miami, and that same strange luck saved it from the wrecking ball as the years trudged by and the city grew around it.
The house located at 5811 No. Miami Avenue, would look right at home in Havana and it has been the subject of ghost stories for many years.
The original owner was Cuba's consul general in Miami, Don Domingo Milord. Havana architect C. Freira designed it with 18-foot-high ceilings, hand-painted floor tiles and Tuscan columns. Materials and workman were brought from Cuba to complete it.
This was the perfect home which sat in what was then a tropical, agricultural area, and Don Domingo named it Villa Paula in honor of his wife.
The Milord's occupancy of Villa Paula lasted only four years. Domingo Milord retired as consul in July 1930 due to health reasons, and two years later Paula Milord's health deteriorated due to a leg amputation and she died at Miami Jackson Hospital. She was 61 years old. Her services were held at Gesu Catholic Church, and contrary to popular belief she was not buried in the garden of the home, but at Woodlawn Park Cemetery.
By the time Paula died Helen Reardon had bought it and she lived there until her death in 1960. Over the next 14 years it switched hands several times, and was even a senior citizen home.
In 1974, a man named Cliff Ensor bought Villa Paula and started to refurbish it since it was in a state of disrepair after hippie squatters had vandalized it.
The first thing he noticed was the he would hear some knocking on the front door, but no one was there every time he opened it. The door to his bedroom would suddenly slam shut. There was shadows on the wall and he would hear the front door lock turning.
Ensor said a visitor saw a one-legged woman with long, dark hair pinned up in a bun floating down the hallway, and he would randomly smell roses and Cuban coffee. He'd also hear piano music and the clack of high-heel shoes on the back porch of the home.
The phantom had a nasty disposition as his dishes and silverware were thrown to the floor and one day a porch chandelier inexplicably crashed to the floor. The most disturbing episodes involved Ensor's three cats who were each killed on different occasions when the back gate would slam shut, despite there being no tension or wind, and crush them. This might point to the spirit of Muriel Reardon who is said to have hated cats.
By 1976 Ensor started to try sell the property while at the same time holding séances there. Several psychics visited the home, including Rev. Emma Tandarich who would visit every two weeks, and who claimed that one of them wouldn't give a name but that she believed it was Paula since she loved to play the piano and the smell of roses. The second was a thin man with a top hat, a pudgy lady in a red dress, a distressed woman who lost a religious medal in the garden and lastly a young woman looking for the burial place of her illegitimate child.
Newspapers covered the story, and the house's haunted reputation became established even though stories circulated that even prior owner, Muriel Reardon had certain rooms in the house she would avoid at all costs.
By the 1980s, Villa Paula was situated in what had become Little Haiti and spooked local Haitians would bless themselves and cross the street to avoid walking in front of the house.
Ensor spent years trying to sell the place and in 1985 placed it for auction and a postal worker won it for $110,000. When he learned of the haunted reputation the house had, he promptly backed out of the deal despite plans to make the building into a restaurant.
The house was finally sold in 1987 to Dr. Lucien Albert, who kept it until 2003 when it was sold to a real estate investor. When Dr. Albert was asked about the hauntings he neither denied nor confirmed any of the stories attached to Villa Paula.
Fast approaching its 100 years of existence, Villa Paula sits renovated, but as mysterious as ever, guarding all its secrets including the identity of the ghosts that are said to haunt it.
Presently the house is a gallery, museum and event venue
Photo credit - Miami News
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer