CORAL GABLES CHARRETTE: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
"Remember that what you are selling here is not just land. It is not just a piece of ground on which to put a house. What you are really selling is romance, the stars, the moon, the tropics, the wind off the blue water and the perfume of flowers that never grew in northern climes." That may sound a little corny to you today, but he meant it. He meant every single word of it.
You are all familiar with this image, but I think it again highlights Merrick's vision of what Coral Gables should be. His vision of the garden. His vision of the Spanish patio. His vision of what he thought was the best way to live in South Florida.
This is the front patio of George and Eunice Merrick's house on South Greenway Drive. You can see that he also practiced what he preached.
This is the Merrick family in the early 20th century. Solomon Merrick on the left, the preacher/father, who became the minister at Plymouth Church in 1901. That is George as a teenager, right next to him. This is probably a picture you have not seen before. His mother, Althea Fink Merrick, who was an artist, is sitting down. In front of him are his cousins Bob Fink, who was also an artist, and Enna Fink, who many of you may have known in Coral Gables. Another cousin, H. George Fink, is on the outside and in the back are his sisters Ethel and Medie.
This is a very early picture of their homestead. The house, a little wooden cabin, is the home they moved into from Duxbury, Massachusetts, where Solomon Merrick, was the preacher of the Congregational Church. In Duxbury, the family lived in a big fancy house right on Main Street. They moved to the wilderness of South Florida-out to the end of nowhere-five miles from everything-and lived in this "dog-trot" semi-shack. It must have been an incredible adjustment.
There were no schools this far out from the three-year-old City of Miami. Even though George did not go to school, the first thing his mother did was start this educational institution for her younger children. She named it the Guavonia School after the tangle of guava trees that grew nearby. (Just think, we could be living in Guavonia today.) The school was on the corner of Granada and Coral Way in a wooden cabin that was there when the family arrived. It was the first public school in Coral Gables.
George loved to read Washington Irving's Alhambra. This is the real Alhambra-taken from a book available to him in the late 19th Century. You may see some buildings you recognize. These are the type of pictures he looked at and this is what he read when he dreamed of "Castles in Spain." He wrote constantly about the Giralda in Seville, that you might recognize in its many later applications in Miami.
Even though George's father and mother were extremely well educated-Solomon with a Master's in Divinity from Yale and Althea with a Bachelor of Arts from Lebanon Valley College-they survived in Miami as farmers. Their first crop included guavas and vegetables grown on what is now the Granada Golf Course. Today's golf course was low land and it was therefore easy to plant the crops-no palmettos to grub. At the same time, George and his father plant-