Sunday, August 19, 2012

Coral Gables - A Lush and Colorful Past

Inspired by the City Beautiful Movement that swept across America during the early 20th century, landscape architects such as Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, who designed New York’s Central Park, greatly influenced the elements of architectural style incorporated by developers in Southern Florida in general and Coral Gables specifically.

Coral Gables real estate is hallmarked by a proud and colorful aesthetic heritage in which specific elements of style were incorporated. Some of these included: the use of wide avenues lined with trees, winding roads adorned with lush greenery, ornate plazas with gushing fountains and monumental buildings.

Coral Gables, the epitome of City Beautiful, was built to enhance and harmoniously coexist with the environment. Its grand Mediterranean Revival architectural style was established in 1914 when wealthy industrialist, James Deering built his landmark estate, Villa Viscaya.

His winter home from 1916 to his death in 1925, the garden’s classical Italian and French design combined with lush tropical foliage resulted in experiments with many exotic plants that were heretofore unknown to American horticulture.

During the 1920s, visionaries such as George Merrick, enraptured by the fever of the Florida land boom, developed his vast land holdings of Coral Gables real estate while building on Florida’s colorful Spanish legacy. Merrick came to Miami with his family from Duxbury, Massachusetts, in 1899 and he created an elitist enclave he called Coral Gables, whose name derived from the native rock home where he spent his childhood. Coral Gables real estate became highly desirable, offering its own unique and private enclave.

It was George Merrick and his team of extraordinary artists and designers who subdivided the vast holdings of Coral Gables real estate into areas with clear zoning and usage specifications. These original city planners set aside residential and country club areas, business, industrial and craft subdivisions and recreational areas including bridle paths, parks, tennis courts and golf courses.

These building codes were made specifically to ensure that Coral Gables real estate and its lush environs would endure throughout the decades to come. From the muted shades of its buildings to its exotic shrubbery, Coral Cables remains unchanged since its inception. Some of the codes seem silly by today’s standards. Some ban outdoor parking of pickups and vans overnight and forbid swimming in private pools near churches on Sunday morning. Other regulations stipulate that all cats wear bells and pet monkeys must be kept out of sight at all times.

George E. Merrick also founded Florida’s highest-ranking school, the University of Miami, which since the city’s inception has been the largest employer in Coral Gables. This private research university with more than 15,000 students from all around the world has a faculty and staff comprised of more than 13,400 employees.

Coral Gables real estate represents a tropical paradise that was born from the personal vision of one man who sought to make a difference with his wealth and influence.

Here’s to George Merrick, wherever he may be.

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