Preserving History with Anna Pernas

Historical Resources & Cultural Arts Director, City of Coral Gables

A Miami native, Anna Pernas received a master’s degree in preservation studies at Tulane University in New Orleans. She describes her time in that historic metropolis as working in “a living laboratory” where, within the 300-year-old city, “you’re surrounded by 150-year-old structures down every street.” After graduate school, she stayed in New Orleans working with the city’s Historic District Landmark Commission for seven years, then briefly with the nonprofit Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. She made her way back to her hometown in 2021, serving as the City of Miami’s preservation officer for a year and a half before coming to the Gables.

Anna Pernas at Merrick House
Anna Pernas outside the historic Merrick House, a city-owned property preserved and managed by her department.

Latest Achievement

It takes a village to preserve the historical integrity of a city. Here in Coral Gables, this continuous effort, vital to the legacy of the City Beautiful, is led under the guidance of the Historical Resources and Cultural Arts Department. Pernas joined the City of Coral Gables in June as the head of the department, overseeing the historic preservation, cultural arts, and archives of the city. The department’s goal is to preserve as much of the historic fabric of the city as possible while still accommodating new construction and restorations.

One of Pernas’ priorities in her new role is making historic preservation more approachable for the public so that “people aren’t afraid to purchase a historic property and go through the process.” Upcoming projects she looks forward to are the restoration of City Hall and the Gondola building at the Biltmore Hotel.

RELATED: Art for Everyone — Learn about the department’s Art in Public Places Program.

What She Says

“We’re restoring the physical aspects of the city, but we are also enhancing it by having the archives available to the public and highlighting our community through the Art in Public Places program,” Pernas says. “Historical preservation creates a sense of place. Because the properties and structures are being respected and taken care of, that translates to the rest of the environment — from [care for] the trees to how the roads are designed — and it creates the form of the city,” she says. “That’s one of the things people come here for and want to be a part of. That’s why the community is as engaged as they are, because they know the importance it creates.”