The success of George Merrick’s development of Coral Gables can be attributed in great part to the team of experts he brought together. Though the guiding vision was uniquely Merrick’s, the expertise to translate that vision into reality came from the talented artists, architects and planners that surrounded him.
Perhaps foremost among these was Merrick’s own uncle, Denman Fink, who was involved with the project since its inception. He served as Art Director for the Coral Gables Corporation and later was a Professor of Painting at the University of Miami. Fink was published in national magazines during the teens and created war bond posters during World War I. In Coral Gables he is credited with the design of landmarks such as Venetian Pool and City Hall, as well as the development of the City plan, including the entrances, plazas, and other public spaces. His work can also be seen in the Federal Court House in downtown Miami, where a mural by Fink depicts George Merrick as a young man delivering produce.
While Fink was the artist that conceived the designs, master architect Phineas Paist carried them to completion. Originally from Pennsylvania, Paist studied at the Drexell Institute of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later in Europe, as a Cresson European Traveling Scholar. After coming to Miami, Paist was associate architect on James Deering’s estate, Villa Vizcaya, before becoming Supervising Architect of the Coral Gables Corporation.
Finally, credited with laying out the grounds for the City’s winding drives, tree-lined boulevards and grand entrances is landscape architect Frank Button. Button’s work includes the Charles Deering Estate in Buena Vista, Chicago’s Lincoln Park extension and the grounds of the Vermont state capitol. For his work in Coral Gables, Button imported tropical plants from various points around the globe. He was killed in 1938, when he was run over by a truck while supervising the planting of trees on Bird Road.
Additional members of Merrick’s early team included W.C. Bliss, a civil engineer, and architects Harold Hasting and Walter DeGarmo, the first registered Architect in the State of Florida.