Today it’s commonplace to hear South Florida referred to as an international hub but I often wonder how George Merrick and other pioneers had the foresight to envision this area, namely Coral Gables, with an international flair. I thought about this very thing as I drove past one of the villages of Coral Gables yesterday.
Many people, including some residents of Coral Gables, are not aware of the rich history of the villages. George Merrick started the City of Coral Gables with a Mediterranean style home in mind in the early 1920s but as the real estate interest tapered he developed the concept of the Villages of Coral Gables. The initial idea was to have as many as 15-20 themed villages with distinct, international architecture within the city in order to attract more Northeners to purchase real estate in “The City Beautiful”. He insisted on hiring the most outstanding architects available in each of the chosen styles. Sadly, he was only able to complete about 80 houses out of the planned 1000 before an economic downturn and the 1926 hurricane left many villages unbuilt. Those that were completed, however, remain some of the most sought after parcels of real estate in the City of Coral Gables today.
I find this piece of Coral Gables history so interesting that I thought you might too!
Two of the villages that are probably the least known but the most frequently driven passed are the French Normandy Village and the Dutch South African Village. Both border along LeJuene Road.
French Normandy Village
This thematic village, with its half timbering, shingle gables roofs, and projecting second story sections resembles a 15th century French village. It is bounded by LeJuene Road, Viscaya Court, Viscaya Avenue and Alesio Avenue. The historic section was constructed in 1926-1927, and was designed by architects John and Coulton Skinner. The entire village was sold in 1935 to the University of Miami and became their fraternity row. Interestingly,during World War I the homes were used as army barracks.Today you can buy one of the least expensive “Village Homes” in this complex. Click here to preview: French Normandy Village
Dutch South African Village
The Dutch South African Village is a distinct collection of houses patterned on the farmhouses of Dutch colonists who settled in South Africa in the 17th century. These group of unique homes, advertised as the first of this style in America, are located south of US 1 and near the Cocoplum circle. They were completed in May of 1927 and were designed by Palm Beach architect, Marion Sims Wyeth. One of the more unique homes in this village is on the market today. Click here to preview: Dutch South African Village.
Over time, I’ll share tidbits related to the other villages. Here’s a map to help guide you.