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Inside the Home of Coral Gables' Founder, George Merrick

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Photos by Raquel Zaldivar

The City of Coral Gables was named after this house, Coral Gables, which itself got the name from its wide gables of oolitic limestone, otherwise known as coral rock. Now known as the George Merrick House, it's one of those little historic landmarks that most South Floridians have probably heard about, but many have never been to. Before Coral Gables became developer George Merrick's extensively planned 'master suburb' it was the Merrick family's grapefruit, avocado and vegetable farm, which in its time was the largest agricultural enterprise in South Florida, and this was their house.

The original homestead, consisting of land and a crude wooden cabin, was purchased on July 11th 1899 by George's father, Minister Solomon Merrick, who brought his family from Massachusetts to the fledgling City of Miami for their health. George's mother, Althea, designed the enlargement of the house that turned it into what we see today, using local oolitic limestone taken from a rock quarry that would become the Venetian Pool. Growing bored with agriculture and dreaming of real estate after his father's death, Merrick subdivided the farm in the 1920s, running the main street of his new city, Coral Way, right past the family house.

George extensively developed and sold off land around the farm, creating the highly planned city that we're familiar with today, but always kept the house itself for his mother and sister Ethel to live in. After the South Florida real estate boom went bust in 1926, George lost everything except Althea's house. After Althea's death, it became a boarding house run by Ethel called Merrick Manor, and eventually found its way into the protective hands of the City of Coral Gables in 1976, whose city hall George himself had commissioned and built five blocks away. The city restored it to its 1925 appearance, which was considered the year most representative of the Merrick family, and now opens it twice a week for tours.

· Merrick House []