“Solid as a rock” is no cliche when it comes to two local landmarks.
Coral rock has been used extensively as a building material throughout the city of Coral Gables since its beginning. Many of the earliest residences in the area were constructed using the material, including the home of Coral Gables’ founder George Merrick at 907 Coral Way.
By 1922, many of the city’s first homes were being built near the Merrick House out of the same material. Much of the coral rock used in the early stages of the city’s construction came from a quarry that would later be transformed into the Venetian Pool at 2701 De Soto Blvd. The material was used not only for residences, but also for important civic buildings including City Hall and the Coral Gables Women’s Club.
The Venetian Pool was completed in 1924 from an old 4-acre coral rock quarry abandoned in 1921. The quarry was creatively reconfigured by architect Phineas Paist and designed by Merrick’s uncle, artist Denman Fink. It was named for Venice, Italy.
The first national opera troupe performance in Miami was in the drained Venetian Pool on February 2, 1926. The million-dollar production had a cast of 30 singers and 28 ballet dancers who arrived on three special trains. The opera was sponsored by the developers of Coral Gables and Miami Shores. A year earlier, the celebrated Paul Whiteman Orchestra played in the Venetian Pool to help Merrick promote sales in Coral Gables.
In 1981, the Venetian Pool was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and is the only pool listed on the register.
Another rock-solid landmark is Pinecrest Gardens. The site contains remnants of the original bed of Snapper Creek. The grounds have evolved into an Eden with roaming peacocks, swimming white swans, towering banyans, natural streams and a lake. The site covers approximately 4.3 acres of native forested wetland (3.3 acres of tropical hardwood hammock and an acre of native cypress slough hammock).
Pinecrest Gardens is so special that the talipot palm, planted in 1965 (when the land was Parrot Jungle), started its once-in-its-lifetime flowering cycle this year. Only eight talipot palms have flowered in Florida in the last half-century.
In 1990, the site was designated as an individual historic site pursuant to the Metropolitan Dade County Historic Preservation Ordinance, and in 2011, the National Park Service announced the addition of Pinecrest Gardens to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1991. The Association promotes the understanding of the importance of historic resources and their preservation. For more information, please visit historiccoralgables.org.