Coconut Grove

ACCESS
The easiest and most affordable manner to get to Coconut Grove is by Metrorail. Coconut Grove has two stations, Douglas Road and Coconut Grove. Both have a free trolley service from the stations to the Grove. Or take the 15 minute walk from Douglas Road to the Bahamian Cemetery and then walk down historic Charles Avenue to the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

If driving, the parking lot next to the Coconut Grove Playhouse has relatively good rates.

DESCRIPTION
Coconut Grove is older than the incorporation of the City of Miami. In the 1880’s, Bahamians Northern settlers established permanent settlements on land previously inhabited by Tequesta and Seminoles.

COCONUT GROVE WALKING LECTURE
All text is directly from the Historical Markers in Coconut Grove. All photos are by John William Bailly and licensed under Creative Commons 4.0. Individuals are free to reproduce the images as long as they credit them with “Photo by JW Bailly.”

THE BARNACLE

“The Barnacle is the oldest home in Dade County still standing on its original site. It was built in 1891 by Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of Coconut Grove’s most prominent pioneers. He first visited South Florida in 1877 and moved to this area in 1881, due to his wife’s illness. She died here later that year. In 1886, Commodore Munroe purchased forty acres of bayfront land, including this five acre site. He built the boathouse in 1887 and lived on the upper floor until the main house was completed. In 1894, he married Miss Jessie Wirth. They had two children, Jessie and Wirth, who were brought up here. This historic site, and the original house with its additions, were donated to the State of Florida by the Munroe family in 1973.” Marker for A Florida Heritage Site, Sponsored by Coconut Grove Civic Club and the Florida Department of State

The Barnacle Florida State Park website
https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/barnacle-historic-state-park/history

COCONUT GROVE PLAYHOUSE

“This theater is one of the few structures in downtown Coconut Grove that typifies the flamboyant era of the 1920s. Envisioned by Miami entrepreneurs Irving Thomas and Fin Pierce, The Grove was a luxurious movie theater designed in the Spanish Rococo style by noted architect Richard Kiehnel, who also designed the Miami Senior High School, the Scottish Rite Temple, and many South Florida homes. The Grove was the most elaborate theater with the largest capacity in Miami. Before its opening in 1926, Thomas sold the theater to the movie studio Paramount Enterprises, Inc., believing that the studio could bring in larger attractions. As one of Paramount’s 11 theaters in Southeast Florida, it was equipped with the latest model Wurlitzer pipe organ and was one of the few air conditioned buildings in the area. In addition, the building served multiple purposes with storefronts on the ground floor, offices on the second, and apartments on the third. The theater enjoyed a brief period of success before it closed during the Great Depression in the 1930s. During World War II, the theater was used as a training school for U.S. Army Air Corps navigators. Following the war, the building was closed until 1955 when it was purchased for $200,000 by George Engle, who decided to transform it into a performing arts center. Engle hired prominent Modernist architect Alfred Browning Parker to redesign the theater. The remodeled theater opened on June 3, 1956, as the Coconut Grove Playhouse and was Miami’s first live theater. The opening was headlined by the U.S. premiere of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece “Waiting for Godot.” After changing ownership multiple times, the theater was purchased by the State of Florida in 1980. Despite its turbulent history, the Coconut Grove Playhouse evolved into one of the most important regional theaters in the country and remains a beloved venue for the theatrical community in Miami.” Marker for A Florida Heritage Site, Sponsored by Coconut Grove Civic Club and the Florida Department of State

E.W.F. STIRRUP HOUSE
“Bahamian immigrants played an integral role in the development of Coconut Grove. African-Bahamian immigrant Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup was born in 1873, and emigrated from the Bahamas in 1888. Stirrup worked as a carpenter’s apprentice first in Key West, then moved his family to Coconut Grove to work on James Deering’s pineapple farm. Through his entrepreneurial talent, Stirrup became one of the largest landowners in the area and built this two-story Frame Vernacular house for himself in 1897. Believing homeownership led people to be better citizens, he built more than 100 homes for African Americans in the region, and provided other blacks with opportunities to rent and later purchase their first homes. In addition to real estate, Stirrup owned a grocery store, bicycle repair shop, tailor shop, meat market, and dry goods store. The Bahamas had the same coral rock and climate, so Stirrup and others knew how to use this soil to plant tropical trees, vegetables, and fruits. Furthermore, they knew how to use the local limestone to make lime mortar used in stone foundations for houses. The Stirrup House is one of a few wood-frame residences from the late nineteenth century remaining in Miami-Dade County. The house’s narrow proportions, the size and shape of its doors and windows, and its L-shaped plan are characteristics frequently associated with the era’s residential architecture. The house contains materials of outstanding quality that are native and unique to South Florida, including Dade County slash pine. Though the building has been altered over the years, it retains much of its overall integrity, and is a remarkable example of architecture associated with the Bahamian experience in South Florida. Along with the rehabilitated Mariah Brown House nearby to the west, the E.W.F. Stirrup House serves as a reminder of the achievement of these early pioneers.” Marker for A Florida Heritage Site, Sponsored by Coconut Grove Civic Club and the Florida Department of State

ODD FELLOWS HALL

MARIAH BROWN HOUSE

“Mariah Brown was born in the Upper Bogue, Eleuthera, Bahamas in 1851 and immigrated to the United States in 1880. Brown lived in Key West with her three daughters and worked as a laundress. By 1889, Brown had moved to Coconut Grove to work in the Peacock Inn owned by one of Coconut Grove founders, Charles Peacock. Though Brown and her daughters initially lived at the Peacock Inn, she soon bought land to build her own home. Located on Evangelist Street (now Charles Avenue) and within walking distance from the Peacock Inn, Brown purchased the plot for $50 from local landowner Joseph Frow. Brown and her family were among the first black families to settle in Coconut Grove, and her house, constructed in 1890, was the first built on Evangelist Street. Brown’s significance to the African-Bahamian community lasted well beyond her death in 1910. Her house along with those of other black landowners, such as E.W.F. Stirrup, became the heart of the African-Bahamian community in Coconut Grove. African-Bahamians were one of the earliest immigrant groups to arrive in South Florida, and the community in Coconut Grove is one of the oldest black communities in Dade County. Constructed from Dade County slash pine, Mariah Brown’s one-and-a-half story wood Frame Vernacular house was designed to cope with the hot and humid climate before residential air conditioning. In the late 1800s, Bahamian immigrants brought their style of home building, later known as Conch houses, to Key West and South Florida. To protect against heavy rain and strong winds from tropical weather events, the houses featured a lower sloped roof and larger roof overhangs than typical homes in the United States during this time. Conch houses featured clapboard siding, foundation piers, high ceilings, porches, and operable sash windows. Additions were made to Brown’s Conch house in the 1920s and 1950s, but the house largely retains its original appearance and character, and was designated as a local historic site in 1995 by the City of Miami. The Mariah Brown House is listed in the Florida Black Heritage Trail as part of The Charles Avenue Historic District.” Marker for A Florida Heritage Site, Sponsored by Coconut Grove Civic Club and the Florida Department of State

BAHAMIAN CEMETERY
“The Historic Coconut Grove Cemetery was first used as a graveyard for the Grove’s Bahamian settlers in 1906. The community’s original cemetery was a small lot opened by the city in 1904 on what is now the 3500 block of Charles Avenue. That site was judged by the town leaders to be too small to accommodate the needs of the growing population and the cemetery was moved to its present location. Because of the upset caused by moving the cemetery, the “Coconut Grove Colored Cemetery Association” was formed to take over the responsibility for the yard. In 1913, five families purchased the property for $140.00 as trustees for the Association. These families were the Burrows, Higgs, Reddick, Ross and E.W.F. Stirrup families, all of whom were local civic leaders. Many of Coconut Groves’ Bahamian pioneers are buried in this cemetery. Joseph Mayor who owned the bicycle shop is buried here, as are Daniel Anderson, a Bahamian seaman and his wife Catherine who was one of the founders of Christ Episcopal Church. Captain John Sweeting, a successful developer and commercial fisherman, and his family are also here. Many more of the original settlers of the Grove  The Historic Coconut Grove Cemetery Marker with cemetery in background may also rest in this cemetery in the numerous unmarked graves. Some of the markers in this cemetery are unique to South Florida. The twelve anthropomorphic or “head and shoulders” stones are found nowhere else in Dade County. They reflect Bahamian background and rich African American culture of the neighborhood. Today the cemetery is still cared for by the Coconut Grove Cemetery Association and is recognized as an historic site.” City of Miami Historical Marker

CHRIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Christ Episcopal Church was founded on March 24, 1901. The first service was held at the home of David and Rebecca Clark and founding members included Mr. and Mrs. E.W.F. Stirrup, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Roberts, Mrs. Lula Reddick, Mrs. Catherine Anderson, and Mr. Azariah Sawyer. The Reverend G.I. Smith, who also served at St. Agnes, was the first official vicar. The congregation purchased a lot on the corner of Hibiscus Street and William Avenue in 1904 and built a small wooden church of Florida pine for six hundred dollars. The “Great Hurricane of 1926″ destroyed the Church and the parish house. The Church that stands today was completed in 1930.” City of Miami Historical Marker

EVA MUNROE

COCONUT GROVE LIBRARY

HOUSEKEEPERS

“On Thursday afternoon, February 19, 1891, Flora McFarlane and five other pioneer women of Dade County founded the Housekeepers Club, the first organized women’s club in South Florida. The purpose was to bring the housekeepers of the area together for companionship. The club’s first project was to raise money for a new Sunday school building. Miss McFarlane was elected president and dues were set at 40 cents a year.The Housekeepers Club met in the schoolhouse and later at Union Chapel before 1897. In that year the group built its own wooden clubhouse on property donated by Ralph M. Munroe. The present building of pine masonry and native rock was constructed in 1921. At each location the club maintained its active involvement in the civic, social, and cultural aspects of the community.On March 17, 1957, the Housekeepers Club became the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove. Chartered by the State of Florida in 1897, the club is federated with the General, Florida, and Dade County Federations of Women’s Clubs.” Marker by the Historical Association of Southern Florida

PLYMOUTH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH

The following history is transcribed from a flyer from Plymouth Congregational Church

Plymouth Congregational Church was organized on November 7, 1897 by The Rev. James Bolton. At that time it was located on MacFarlane Road next to the Coconut Grove Library.

Twenty years later, the church moved to its present location. Led by the Rev. George B. Spalding and George E. Merrick, the land was bought, subdivided into lots and Devon Road was built…THe money from the sale of those lots was used to help finance the building of the church.

The original part of the church was started in June 1916 and completed in August 1917. Clinton McKenzie was the architect who drew the plans, taken from the design of an old City Mission Church in Mexico.

The rocks to build the church were given by Mr. Fin L. Pierce. It was surface rock taken from property he owned on Sunset Road just south of Coco Plum Plaza. The stone work done by just one man, a Spaniard, Felix Rebom, whose only tools were a hatchet, a trowel, a T square, and a plumb line!

The stone pillars for the side porches added in 1918 were ordered through James Deering of Villa Vizcaya, who volunteered financial assistance.

The ancient front door (about 375 years old) came from a Monastery in the Pyrenees Mountains. It is made of hand-carved walnut backed wit oak and has the original hand-wrought iron fittings. There was a hole in the lower right side of the door for the cats to take care of the church mice! In the niche above the door is the statue of “The Welcoming Christ” by sculptor Hubert Dumont.

EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly  29 March 2022
COPYRIGHT © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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