Leigh Kerdyk’s family has a long history of political and social involvement in Coral Gables. Her father was a city commissioner and vice mayor and her grandfather also served on the commission.
So it is only fitting that her project for her Girl Scout Gold Award had its roots in Coral Gables history. The project was called “Rediscovering George Merrick’s Venetian Pillars.”
“These pillars were in the Coral Gables Waterways in the 1920s,” she said.
Kerdyk said George Merrick was trying to market Coral Gables as a Venice of the South.
To get her project going, Kerdyk contacted famed Miami historian Arva Moore Parks.
“Originally we were trying to find if there were any pillars left,” Kerdyk saidr.
The idea was to find the pillars, extract them and renovate them to their former glory. But the pillars were made of wood and didn’t survive the passage of time. That led to the plan to install two new fiberglass pillars in the style of the original ones.
“We are having two put in the Coral Gables Waterway,” she said. “In the waterway by the Coco Plum circle.”
Kerdyk, who has finished her senior year at Gulliver Prep, said she started looking for ideas for her Gold Project in her junior year.
“I did all the paperwork and starting searching for the pillars. We searched from the bay to the Biltmore.”
She searched with her father, navigating the waters in kayaks. They had some ideas where the pillars should be but they couldn’t find any.
“We talked to a specialist,” she said. “He said the last one was taken out in the ’90s during the Lejeune bridge construction. They all decomposed. With [Hurricanes] Andrew or Irene, the ones that had been standing were either fallen or taken out for construction.”
Her research showed that the Coral Gables code had once mandated that all the pilings had to be in the Venetian styling. That section was later removed because that section of the code was never followed.
“We are paying an expert on it to put them in,” she said. Next year, Kerdyk will be at Tulane.
— Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld