In George Merrick, Son of the South Wind, tobe released in November ($31.95) , South Florida historian Arva Moore Parks recounts George Merrick’s quest to distinguish himself from the legions of developers who sought only profit.
Helping to create the land boom of the 1920s, Merrick transformed his family’s citrus grove just outside of Miami into one of the finest planned communities — the “master suburb” of Coral Gables.
With a team of architects and city planners, he built homes for the growing middle class in the Mediterranean Style using local stone and he invested in public infrastructure by designing and building parks and pools, trolley lines and waterways. He pledged land for a library and the university that would become the University of Miami. Hailed in national publications as a visionary, Merrick was “green” before green became fashionable, a New Urbanist before the movement had a name.
As Coral Gables and Merrick prospered, he reinvested in education, affordable housing, and other progressive causes. But the Great Depression ravaged Miami, and Merrick’s idealism cost him his fortune. He died with an estate worth less than $400.
With unprecedented access to the Merrick family and mining a treasure trove of Merrick’s personal letters, documents, speeches, and manuscripts, Parks presents the remarkable story of George Merrick and the development of one of the nation’s most iconic planned cities.
Arva Moore Parks is the former chief curator, interim director, and chair of the Coral Gables Museum. She is the author of numerous books on Florida history, including The Forgotten Frontier: Florida through the Lens of Ralph Middleton Munroe and Miami, the Magic City.