Endless Love: Remembering Lost Treasures

The Lost but Not Forgotten Buildings of Coral Gables

To truly appreciate the design principles on which Coral Gables was founded in 1921, it might be useful to consider how the city presented itself way back when. An early marketing brochure for “Coral Gables — Miami Riviera” had this to say to prospective homebuyers:

“To study the [buildings] of Coral Gables from their architectural point of view is to learn… what fine thinking, what careful craftsmanship, what high artistic purpose, what exact adaptation to needs, must go into the creation of an architectural style so unquestionably original and valuable as this of Coral Gables.”

Serious analysis? Or fanciful hyperbole? Or perhaps a bit of both in promoting the new city that was rising among the scrub pines and fruit groves (and mosquito-infested mangroves) of South Florida. “Coral Gables — a Miami Riviera” soon emerged as an idealized version of a tropical-suburban paradise.

The Past Is Present… Until It Isn’t

Coral Gables’ “architectural style” is easy to recognize and decode today by virtue of our extant vintage homes, churches, schools, and commercial establishments. They are here and now and worthy of reverence. Yet other buildings — the ones lost, demolished, or forgotten — are equally part of our collective past.

As our centennial approaches, the City’s “brand identity” may well be defined by the value we place on historical precedent. In other words: what is our architectural legacy worth? A seminal repurposing of an aging structure? A commemorative plaque? These fundamental things apply, to be sure, yet they are not alone in praise of our built environment. The places that disappeared — the horse stable, the little shop around the corner, the original Merrick office building, among others — are, at the very least, worth remembering.

Six That Got Away

Coral Gables Construction Company

2341-2345 Lejeune Road Designed in 1923 by H. George Fink to house the offices of Merrick’s Coral Gables Construction Company, this two-story structure is considered “The Birthplace of The City Beautiful.” Preceding the construction of Coral Gables City Hall, the modest building later housed La Salle Cleaners for decades before being demolished in 2019. It was the oldest existing building in downtown Coral Gables.

Mission Revival Apartment House

333 Catalonia Avenue Constructed in 1926 in the Mission Revival style, this two-story, four-unit building was designed by architect Harry J. Beshgetoorian for the Arts & Crafts Section of Coral Gables. Something of an anomaly in the city center, the multi-family structure was demolished in 2019 at 93 years of age.

Coral Gables Riding School & Show Ring

2320 Salzedo Street Perhaps taking his cue from Stanford White’s 1890 Madison Square Garden in New York City, George Merrick planned the Coral Gables Riding Academy and Show Ring to capitalize on the importance of horses in the social and sporting life of his new suburb. A dedicated bridle path was laid out along Alhambra Circle and Country Club Prado for the enjoyment of the equestrian community. Demolished in 1952.

Granada Shops

lost buildings

2900 Palermo Avenue Designed by Phineas Paist in 1925, this Spanish Revival-style building in the Arts & Crafts Section consisted of a street-level business offering hand-crafted furniture, with living quarters on the second level. Renowned in later years as Charade Restaurant, the building was critically damaged by a fire in 1995 and subsequently demolished.

North Gables Executive Center

lost buildings

1000 Ponce De Leon Boulevard Watson, Deutschman & Kruse designed this imposing building in 1964 to house the Dade County Florida Teachers Credit Union. Despite its prominence as an exemplar of the “New Formalist” style, the 18,000-square-foot structure was demolished in 2022. WD&K’s work nevertheless lives on vis-a-vis the Ashe Administration Building and the Richter Library at the University of Miami.

The Miami Coliseum

lost buildings

1500 Douglas Road Built in a quasi-Mediterranean Revival style in 1927, this massive structure had many lives – as a cultural center, a sports arena, an ice-skating rink, and a fitness center — before being demolished in 1993. Its large-scale (though impressive) design may have been out of step with the more discreet charm originally associated with Coral Gables.

Story written by Karelia Martinez Carbonell, the president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, and Bruce Fitzgerald. Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of the Coral Gables Historic Resources Department, except for the North Gables Executive Center, courtesy of Property Record / Loopnet.