CORAL GABLES CHARRETTE: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
I am trying to understand what some might think a little corny, but I do not think it is. I am trying to understand his soul-what he thought, why he thought like he thought, what made him tick. To start with, he was a very bright and very creative individual. He was the son of very bright, very creative parents. His family adored him. His grandpar- ents adored him and so did his friends. All this adoration, which was rightly deserved, made him a very confident human being.
He was an extremely well educated person, but not in the usual way. In fact, as I work on George Merrick's biogra- phy, I keep saying "I am being educated by George Merrick," because he uses so many literary illusions in his writ- ing that I have to read the book, look up phrases and find out what he really means because my education is not quite as good as his was.
Hi parents taught him but mostly, he taught himself. How? He read, read, read, and read. In fact, he described the early influence reading had on his future development. When he came to Miami in 1899 as a 13-year-old boy, he spent the first night in Coconut Grove with Reverend Bolton of the Congregational Church, who had assisted his father. Reverend Bolton's wife, Eva, was an educated woman. She gave young George a volume by John Ruskin to read. So at age 13, in his first night in Miami, he is reading Ruskin. For the rest of his life, he often quoted him.
George never went to school after 1899 until he went off to Rollins College when he was 21 years old. As you can see, he had a very unusual kind of education. Several times a week, he went into Miami to peddle vegetables in his mule cart-four hours in and four hours back. He said the mule knew the way, so he read the whole time. So if we all read eight hours every couple of days, we would be as educated as George.
He wanted to be a writer. He was a romantic. All those things you hear about him are true. He was very visual. He saw things behind his eyes before they ever got onto paper. He was not an artist in the traditional sense, like many other members of his family, but he was an artistic genius just the same.
He also was greatly influenced by the people around him. From age 13, he worked in the fields. He was a field hand. He grubbed the palmettos, which, if you've ever tried to do, you know how hard it is. His best friends were the black Bahamian laborers who worked on the plantation side-by-side with him and the family. He told many stories about them and what they meant to him. They are the ones who taught him to love the tropics, to love South Florida, to respect the pineland, to respect the beautiful cloud mountains. His Bahamian friends greatly influenced him all his life. Because of this early Bahamian influence, he understood the land and he loved all things tropical.
Recently, I penned a letter to the editor in response to somebody that wrote that he was only in it for the money like all the other developers. He really, truly, was not in it for the money, even though he made a lot of it. Today, he would have been like a Bill Gates. He had the chance to sell Coral Gables for $80 million 1920s dollars. Just think of that! But he would not have considered it in a million years. Denman Fink, his uncle, said that he never knew how much money he had and he never cared. All he wanted to do was build a perfect city.
He was also a super salesman. He was handsome-very handsome-charismatic-very charismatic. He had deep blue eyes, dark hair-almost raven colored and a smile no one ever forgot. Doc Dammers once said that Merrick was so persuasive that he [Dammers] could say something in the morning that might be a lie and before the day was over George Merrick would make it happen. George's grandfather, H.G.G. Fink, had a tremendous influence on the young man. Fink was a charismatic Methodist circuit-riding preacher who became very wealthy selling Fink's Magic Oil. George adored him and he adored George. I believe that a great deal of George's confidence and oratory skills and ability to sell anything came from Grandpa Fink.
Well, with that as a background, we will begin the slide presentation.
I would like to start with this slide because it is romantic, just like George. You can see the vision, the "Castles in Spain" you have heard about. You can understand his point of view in one of the written documents he gave his salesmen: