CORAL GABLES CHARRETTE: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
It was to be a Kellogg-type sanitarium, a health spa that was very big in the 1920s. It was located at Riviera Drive and Blue Road on the canal. To say that George Merrick would never build anything tall or large scale is wrong. He planned this complex-the largest planned single project in George Merrick's Coral Gables.
Even more surprising, is the Mahi Golf Resort. It was going to be on Hardee Road and the canal on South Alhambra Circle. There was to be a golf course with canals and homes for Shriners. The clubhouse, seen here, is a magnificent Moorish-style building.
This incredible light post is an important relic of the Riviera Section that I have been lobbying for somebody to do something about for 25 years. Denman Fink designed them. They are still standing but most are in serious disrepair. Somebody needs to do something about them. Put that on your list.
Merrick, as you know, had his main downtown and his Crafts Section. Now at the northern end of his planned com- munity, he built the Puerta del Sol, that we call the Douglas Entrance. It had shops and apartments and offices. Everybody needs to read the original plan for the Douglas Section because I know this is part of the charette discus- sion. The original Douglas Section was to be an apartment district, that in many ways it still is. It was also to have a collection of cultural and civic institutions. Merrick proposed a museum of natural history, a library, a stadium and of course, the coliseum.
The Puerta del Sol was barely started. It was to be a mini-walled city more than twice the size of what was complet- ed. Many of us remember when you could drive through it. I loved to drive through the Douglas Entrance when I was a little girl.
This is another un-built project that may surprise you. I counted it and it had 20 stories. When I tell you where it was to be you will groan. It was right where the new Segovia Tower is located. It had another feature that shows some of George Merrick's forward thinking. It was to be a condo. Before condos were invented, he was going to sell apart- ments. It never materialized. Some of us may be glad.
The Biscayne Bay Section was Merrick's final articulated and most unrealized plan. A great portion of land is now Cocoplum that was not developed until the 1970s, '80s and '90s. These drawings show the proposed waterway loops and the beautiful Bahia Mar-a grand boulevard that was to go all the way down the bayfront to Cutler. George planned lagoons on all these waterfront lots but he always kept a very wide swath for the public. He did not believe in roping off the public from the waterfront.
While the Biscayne Bay section was in the planning stages, the Biltmore was on its way up. It opened in January 1926. One month later, Tahiti Beach opened in the Biscayne Bay section. It was really about the only realized project in that section, except for a couple of houses.
The Gables Theater was one of the last big projects. It opened in late 1926 and was torn down in the 1970s.
University of Miami was going up in the summer of 1926, but by the middle of the summer, the economy started to fall apart even before the hurricane hit. University officials decided to move temporarily into the half-finished Anastasia Hotel that was also experiencing financial difficulty. This is a Richard Merrick drawing of the H. George Fink designed hotel. Richard was George Merrick's youngest brother. Of course, this is where the University started and remained until after World War II. It stood right where the Coral Gables Youth Center stands today.
The Colonnade was under construction in the summer of 1926. It was to be another administration building-the grandest of all. Merrick planned to move his offices across the street. It was never really finished because the Coral Gables Corporation ran out of money. In September 1926, the hurricane came and almost all construction stopped.
This is one of two last big gasps of the boom. It is the Coliseum that we should never have lost but we did.