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Coral Gables: Historic Residential District Tour

Led by Dr. Karelia Martinez Carbonell, President of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables

December 1 from 3.15 to 5:30 pm

December 2 from 3.45 to 5:45 pm

Bus departs The Biltmore Hotel 1200 Anastasia

Trip begins on Anastasia crossing the historic Granada Drive toward Riviera Drive, pointing to the historic 1926 White Way streetlights along the tree-lined corridor. [Please refer to article for more information]

Drive along Riviera Drive—one of the few remaining streets lined with the historically-designated White Way Lights—and capture beauty. These functional works of art were commissioned in 1926 by city founder George Merrick--not only to light the fledgling city-- but to beautify the newly built roads. Originally five hundred, less than ten percent of the historic lights still exist today. These unique “White Way Lights” were designed in the early 1920s by founding city architects Phineas Paist and Denman Fink.

Continue to Segovia crossing Bird Road and turning left on Altara Avenue to enter the Italian Village. One of seven international villages developed by George Merrick and his team of noted architects. [Please refer to article for more information] Tour pauses at 644 Altara Avenue.

644 Altara is a special property in the historic village. The local landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1925 by Robert Law Weed. Ruth Bryan Owen, daughter of William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate and great orator, lived in the house. George Merrick hired her father to promote tourism and the development of Coral Gables. In 1933, Ruth became the first woman to be appointed as a U.S. ambassador, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected her as Ambassador to Denmark and Iceland.

Follow Montserrat toward Riviera Drive then cross over US1 toward the Chinese Village.

Merrick called on Yale architect Henry Killam Murphy for the design of the Chinese Village. Murphy developed his New York and New Haven practice in the milieu of the City Beautiful Movement which debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. During his years in China, Murphy developed what he termed Adaptive Architecture, a harmony of traditional Chinese style with modern architectural methods, materials and building use. George Merrick would draw on Murphy’s China experience in the design of Coral Gables’ Chinese Village.

Only eight homes were completed before the real-estate collapse and hurricanes of the 1920s ended the building boom. This cluster of homes built between 1926 and 1927 are linked to each other by a common wall suggesting a "compound" arrangement.

Stop to take a walking tour of the enclave. There is a possibility to enter one of the homes’ private gardens to admire the unique architecture up close.

Return toward the hotel taking Riviera Drive passing by the historically designated Coral Gables Library, built in 1969 from native keystone, quarried in the Florida Keys. The building's Spanish influence is mixed with Brutalist-style architecture. It was designed by Edward T. Rempe and his associate, Wray G. Succop.

Follow Segovia to Andalusia straight to hotel.

Across from the Biltmore stands the Coral Gables Congregational Church 3010 DeSoto Boulevard.

Coral Gables Congregational Church was designed by Kiehnel &Elliott [the firm also designed Coral Gables Elementary School among other landmarks in the area] and patterned after a cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. It was the first church built in the city and the first church in Florida to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was dedicated on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1925.]

IF THERE IS ADDITIONAL TIME, THE TOUR CAN STOP AT THE MERRICK HOUSE.