Coral Gables, A Site to Behold

“Architecture is about trying to make the world a little more like our dreams.” — Danish architect Bjarke Ingels

Historic preservation in the 21st century is no longer just a local agenda item. It’s an issue that has global repercussions, especially as we consider ways to decarbonize our contemporary built environment while simultaneously conserving vintage sites that have enduring societal, historical, or scientific significance.

We’re at a flash point between yesterday, today, and tomorrow, where our architectural and cultural heritage is at risk. That could change as we approach Coral Gables’ centennial.

1925 – 2025: A Century Of Human History

Flash back to 1925 for some of that year’s highlights:
New York became the world’s largest city
The World’s Fair opened in Chicago
Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” were published
Vincent Youmans’ and Irving Caesar’s “Tea For Two” topped the music charts for 18 months
The Art Deco Exposition opened in Paris
King Vidor’s “The Big Parade” opened to become the highest grossing silent movie of all time
The Scopes Trial began
The New Yorker Magazine published its first issue
The City Of Coral Gables was incorporated

On April 17, 1924, a dapper group of architects gathered under the latticework arches of the Coral Gables Inn (303 Minorca Ave.) to be memorialized in their suits and bowties and straw boaters by photographer William Arthur Fishbaugh. (Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida)


In the world of tennis, 2019 saw Roger Federer win the Miami Open after the ATP (the Association of Tennis Professionals) made its move from Key Biscayne to the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Tennis fans watched as Federer became the presumptive GOAT (Greatest of All Time).

In the same year, the APT (the Association for Preservation Technology) came to Miami for a conference held annually to identify heritage conservation efforts involving both place- and policy-makers. At that November 2019 event, a group of conference attendees — after observing the widespread Mediterranean Revival architectural composition of Coral Gables — indicated that the city might qualify as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What is a UNESCO World Heritage site? Essentially, a World Heritage Site is a landmark or area that’s administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Sites can be ancient ruins, historical structures, buildings, cities, deserts, forests, islands, lakes, monuments, or even wilderness areas. After a rigorous nomination process, a potential site can be selected if it’s geographically and historically identifiable and has special cultural and/or physical significance. As of September 2023, there are 1,199 World Heritage Sites across 166 countries.


Of particular interest in the selection process is the requirement that nominated sites exhibit an “important interchange of human values” as evidenced in architecture, technology, monumental arts, town-planning, or landscape design. Here, Coral Gables appears to meet at least one of the ten selection criteria: “To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble, or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.”

As an exemplar of the early 20th century City Beautiful movement, Coral Gables delivers — historically, architecturally, culturally, aesthetically, and, today, even technologically.

Flash forward to 2025, when the city will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding and incorporation. While some things have changed in the intervening years, others have remained the same. Will Coral Gables one day be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site? That’s a possibility as we look ahead and dream on. Certainly there is already a large number of public sites and structures already on the national register of historic places.

Nationally Registered Coral Gables Historic Sites

CORAL GABLES CITY HALL Designed in 1926 by Phineas Paist and Harold Steward; Denman Fink, artistic advisor.
CORAL GABLES CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH Designed in 1925 by Richard Kiehnel and John Blair Elliott.
CORAL GABLES PREPARATORY ACADEMY (formerly the Coral Gables Elementary School). Designed in the early 1920s by Richard Kiehnel and John Blair Elliott.
CORAL GABLES MERRICK HOUSE George Merrick family home, completed in 1910.
CORAL GABLES MUSEUM (formerly the Old Police and Fire Station) Designed in 1939 by Phineas Paist and Harold Steward.
COCO PLUM WOMAN’S CLUB Designed in 1926 by R.G. Howard and A.E. Early.
CORAL GABLES WOMAN’S CLUB Constructed by the Works Progress Administration,1936-1937.
DOUGLAS ENTRANCE Designed by Walter De Garmo, Phineas Paist, and Denman Fink. Completed in 1927.
MACFARLANE HOMESTEAD HISTORIC DISTRICT The first houses were built in 1926 in a wood frame vernacular unique in Coral Gables.
VENETIAN POOL Designed by Denman Fink and Phineas Paist. Completed in 1924.
BILTMORE HOTEL Designed by Leonard Schultze and Fullerton Weaver. Completed in 1926.

Story written by Bruce Fitzgerald and Karelia Martinez Carbonell, president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables.