Leigh Kerdyk Finishes a Project Nearly Five Years in the Making
The Kerdyk family is known for its community generosity, from last year’s donation of $75,000 to the Coral Gables Garden Club to the decades of charitable contributions that led to the city naming Kerdyk Family Park in the south Gables. Now the youngest member of the clan, Leigh Kerdyk, is leaving her mark. A project she began nearly five years ago finally came to light this past summer: The installation of two of the historic lights on the Gables Waterway, originally put in place to illuminate the waterway for gondolas from the Biltmore Hotel in the 1920s.
The project began when Leigh got a $10,000 grant from the city’s Historic Preservation Department, followed by another $5,000 grant from the city’s Parknership program. Gables Historian Arva Moore Parks (who passed in May) consulted with Leigh, providing her with guidance on everything including paint colors. Former Gables Historic Preservation Officer Dona Spain found the solar lights and purchased them with funds from the Coral Gables Community Foundation.
With the help of Glen Larson of Dock & Marine Construction, who agreed to donate the labor to transport and install the light poles, the project came to fruition – but with little fanfare, thanks to the pandemic shutdown of public gatherings.
“My dad and I would go out in a canoe on the waterway, looking for [the old lamps]. We found one almost falling apart, disintegarting. At that point it became a reproduction project,” says Leigh.
The poles were installed near Cocoplum Circle – aka Cartegena Plaza – because they could be seen there by tourists and residents stopping there or at nearby Ingraham Park. “The idea was that they could be seen by the public. That is also where they originally were… We wanted to make them authentic and to celebrate a special part of our history,” says Leigh, who plans to return home after she gets her graduate degree from Tulane University in New Orleans.