The Building of Coral Gables

Much of Coral Gables was built at meteoric speed between 1921 and 1926. At that time, what we know as Coral Gables High School was a tent city for construction workers building the City. Hundreds of workers collaborated in the building of Coral Gables, a great portion of whom were stonemasons from the Bahamas who were experts in coral rock construction.

The site that is today the Venetian Pool was originally a quarry pit that provided the building material for many of Coral Gables’ early houses. The coral rock was also crushed and used to pave the City’s streets. Soon, the quarry, located in the middle of Merrick’s original development, became an eyesore. Merrick asked his uncle, Denman Fink, to transform it. The result was a freeform lagoon and palm-fringed island surrounded by shady porticos and vine-covered loggias. Originally named the Venetian Casino, the pool was built in 1924 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Several significant structures were built during the construction boom. The Congregational Church, for example, was the first church in Coral Gables and was built on land donated by George Merrick to honor his father. Merrick also paid for the construction of Coral Gables Elementary School, in 1924. He was later reimbursed by the Dade County School Board. The Miami-Biltmore Hotel, designed by wellknown New York architects Schultze and Weaver, formally opened on January 15, 1926. George’s brother, Charles, constructed the Granada and Alhambra Entrances, probably learning his stonemasonry trade from the Bahamians who worked for the Merricks on their original Coral Gables Plantation. These were two of the four entrances completed in the 1920s.

By October 1926, Coral Gables boasted more than 4,000 structures representing an investment of more than $150 million. Structures included 2,792 private homes and apartments, 112 office and commercial buildings, 11 schools, 10 public buildings, two hospital buildings, two university buildings and six hotels. Already 100 miles of streets had been paved and 125 miles of sidewalks had been built.

Merrick’s intent, as described in the Corporation’s literature, was to produce structures as permanent as the solid rock with which they were built, an ideal to which the City still strictly adheres.

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