Winner of the Coral Gables 2009 “City Beautiful Award” for Historic Preservation, the Junior League of Miami headquarters functions as a community gathering place

00150011 looking up for historic preservationRecently, the Board of Directors of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables held their Board meeting at the historic headquarters of the Junior League of Miami.  Leslie Rivera, Sustaining Junior League member and a past President of the Junior League of Miami Foundation was the featured speaker.

The Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables was founded in 1991 with the mission to support an environment in which its members and all community citizens can understand, appreciate, exchange information and live with Coral Gables history. In keeping with this mission, the Board of HPACG plans to conduct their monthly meetings at historic sites in the city. HPACG President Ann Rosalind Goodman and Karelia “Kare” Martinez Carbonell, HPACG board member and past President of the JLM Foundation, greeted the Board with sherry and chocolates as a prelude to the evening.  JLM President Leanne Tellam was also on hand to welcome the HPACG Board members.

Leslie gave a brief history of the building (including the famous Tallahassee “cookie” story) and how it became the Junior League of Miami headquarters. A tour of the site was followed by a question and answer period and then the HPACG Board meeting.

The JLM headquarters was originally built as a two-story “Venetian Palace” for Patrick Bennett in 1925 by George Merrick’s Coral Gables Construction and Supply Company. It was designed by George Fink and cost $30,000.  It was the first commercial building in Coral Gables and is the only remaining example of this type of commercial building west of City Hall.  Thorn Grafton was the architect for the adaptive reuse of the building in 1995 after it was bought by the JLM.  Teamwork Construction handled the construction end of the project.  The project which was divided into four phases was an enormous effort by all concerned and could not have been accomplished without the outstanding help of both JLM members and others in the community who lent their financial and practical support.

The building’s front door is historic and was found on site during demolition. In addition, Dade County pine flooring was discovered and was painstakingly restored. The flooring now covers the entire reception area. On the second floor facing Biltmore way, the original porch area was reclaimed. It had been enclosed during one of the building’s many “updates.” The historic iron railing around the stairway has been preserved and slightly modified to comply with safety code requirements. The building’s historic furniture has been refinished and the upholstered pieces have been recovered using donated fabrics. The end result is that the JLM headquarters is both functional and beautifully decorated.

HPACG recently awarded two $1,000 scholarships.  The scholarship winners were chosen by the University of Miami/School of Architecture in recognition of their proven academic achievement and interest in the area of historic preservation.   HPACG is currently working on establishing an Advisory Board.  For additional information please visit historiccoralgables.org.


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