In 1924, when George Merrick’s sales team was at its busiest and Coral Gables land sales were booming, there was one snag in the sales machine: nobody wanted to buy lots bordering the rock quarry that had produced a lot of the limestone used for the early homes. According to former Mayor Fred Harnett, it was Doc Dammers who first thought of a solution to the problem. Denman Fink and Phineas Paist made his idea a reality by transforming this eyesore into the Venetian Casino, known today as Venetian Pool.
This 60,000-square-foot, 800,000-gallon swimming pool, with its vine-covered loggias, shady porticos, waterfalls and caves quickly become one of the City’s most important attractions. The buildings were done in Mediterranean Revival style, featuring barrel-tiled roofs, painted murals and ornamental ironwork and lighting fixtures. Fink created at the Venetian Casino an illusion of antiquity and a vision of Venice, even when it was newly built.
During the City’s early years, prospective buyers were brought directly to Venetian Casino for their first glimpse of Coral Gables and to hear orator William Jennings Bryan deliver his sales pitch. It was also the site for numerous beauty contests and special events. Movie stars such as Esther Williams and Johnny Weismuller performed aquatic exhibitions at Venetian Casino and the orchestras of Paul Whiteman and Jan Garber serenaded poolside dancers.
The Pool was also occasionally drained and transformed into an amphitheater for opera and other productions.
In 1987, Venetian Pool underwent a $2 million renovation, which included devising a method that would allow the pool to replenish its water from the aquifer nightly, without diminishing natural resources. Through this new technology the water that is drained every night is recycled back into the aquifer through a ground filtration system.
On the National Register of Historic Places, Venetian Pool is as important a landmark today as it was at its inception.
The Pool welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and multiple generations of residents have learned to swim there.
Merrick and his team were masters at creating functional beauty. Venetian Pool, which serves as the City’s municipal swimming pool, is a lasting legacy to that artistry.