CORAL GABLES CHARRETTE: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
This is a beautiful example of the detail of the early Coral Gables architecture. It's a Walter DeGarmo drawing with all the little swirls and all the lettering for the Administration Building that stood on the southwest corner of Coral Way and Ponce de Leon Boulevard. It was the second place George Merrick sold Coral Gables-the first the little building on Le Jeune shown previously. As the community grew bigger and better, he needed a larger and more grandiose headquarters.
This building was later Sam's Corner filling station. Many in the audience probably remember it. Unfortunately, it was torn down. If you look upstairs on the left-that little balcony area-was part of George Merrick's private office. This is one of the best pictures I can show to explain George Merrick's vision for Coral Gables. From his balcony patio, you can see down today's Miracle Mile toward Douglas Road. Imagine what a nice place it was to work. If he had someone to impress he just walked him or her out there to catch the southeast breeze, which, before air condi- tioning, all old-time Miamians know you must "catch" to survive.
By 1925, Coral Gables was booming, booming, booming. Salesmen brought in prospective buyers from all over America. This picture shows a Jacksonville group in front of the Administration Building. Merrick had offices all over America. Coral Gables was quite a national phenomenon.
Still dreaming and still loving his Spanish theme, in March 1925, which is a really big time for Coral Gables, they broke ground for the Biltmore Hotel. He brought in John McEntee Bowman, who was the finest hotelier of his day. Bowman brought in Schultz and Weaver, internationally known hotel designers. The Biltmore chain was in the class of today's Four Seasons or something of that caliber. It would be "the" hotel.
About a week later, the beautiful Coral Gables Congregational Church opened. Kiehnel and Elliott were the archi- tects. It is one of the most beautiful buildings remaining almost unchanged from the 1920s. I always take people there to look around at the ceilings and the walls and the floors when they are trying to understand the early vision of Coral Gables. Merrick gave the land and provided most of the construction money to honor his late father, a Congregational Church minister.
In April, the City of Coral Gables incorporated. It is interesting to note, though, in the beginning George Merrick never planned to create a new city. He planned to have Coral Gables become part of Miami. There is a lot of writing on that in the early 1920s, but Coral Gables grew so rapidly, I guess he realized, fortunately, it needed to be its own city.
In 1925, he also announced the Riviera Section and the University of Miami. He gave $5 million and promised four more, plus all the land to build the University. Believe it or not, Merrick talked about Coral Gables becoming Miami's university community in December 1921, one month after he sold the first lot. The new university was going to be gorgeous. This is the plan that Phineas Paist and Denman Fink created.
This is a Bob Fink drawing of some of the planned buildings. He was Denman Fink's son. When you get all these family members collaborating, they created something very special.
This is the concourse and new FEC Railroad station that was planned on Ponce, right in front of the University. From this point forward, most of the plans you will see were proposed but not completed.
This is the second building designed by H. George Fink planned but not built at Ponce de Leon High School (now Middle School). If you look on the right, you can see the building that was completed in 1926 and still stands. Unfortunately, if you study the present building, it does not look much like the original. The recent addition-and they should be shot for doing such a fort-like building-is obviously nothing like the proposed Fink addition. Too bad.
This photograph may surprise you. It was called the Towers. The Towers were to be an enormous high-rise complex.