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Historical Museum of Southern Florida

Coral Gables : The City Beautiful

Coral Gables and The Boom

Merrick placed his first lots on sale in 1921. Edward E. "Doc" Dammers, the cityfs future first mayor, sold lots to the cityfs first residents. He was an energetic pitch-man who told stories and offered gifts to boost sales. Dammers first sold land from a wagon near todayfs Granada Boulevard and Coral Way, then an area of grapefruit groves.

Within a few years Merrickfs sales force consisted of about 3,000 persons, led by Doc Dammers. William Jennings Bryan, a nationally famous minister and politician, enthralled prospective purchasers of real estate from a platform in Venetian Pool. Fleets of buses and trains delivered prospective buyers to Coral Gables.

In 1925, the peak year for the boom, Merrickfs salesmen sold approximately $100 million in property. Building permits for construction surpassed $24 million.

Miamifs Master Suburb

By 1922, the first homes were being built near the Coral Gables Merrick House. The oolitic limestone employed in their construction was quarried from the site of the future Venetian Pool. Merrick had already begun to plan the future cityfs streets, foliage, utilities, plazas, and entranceways.

By 1925, the grand subdivision of Coral Gables was rising quickly, while gaining a national reputation for the advanced elements found in its composition. The innovative community carefully planned its distinctive quarters, thematic architecture and villages, advertising, and marketing.

By 1926, Coral Gables claimed about 10,000 acres of land, including a vast amount of waterfront property along south Biscayne Bay and Key Biscayne.

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Coral Gables incorporated as a city on April 29, 1925. By then, Merrick had spent over $100 million in improvements for his community. More milestones would be reached in the following year: the opening of the Biltmore Hotel and Tahiti Beach, and groundbreaking for the University of Miami. The university was located on land donated by Merrick, who had also pledged $5 million to the institution. Coral Gables stood with Americafs most beautiful and famous new communities.

Hard Times

Floridafs real estate boom collapsed for a host of reasons in 1926. Buyers and money became scarce and construction figures plummeted from the majestic figures of a year earlier. Merrick tried mightily to regenerate the boom, but the killer hurricane of September, 1926, devastated the area, ensuring that the boom would not come back. By 1928 the Colonnade, designed to be the offices of Merrickfs Coral Gables Corporation, City Hall, and the Coliseum were completed; even such new landmarks could not cloak the fact that Coral Gables and the rest of the area were mired in a severe economic depression. It worsened in the 1930s, as the nation slipped into the Great Depression.

Merrick fell heavily into debt, and suffered the disgrace of being removed from the Coral Gables Commission in 1928. Afterwards, he went to Matecumbe Key where he and his wife Eunice operated a resort on property left to her by her parents.

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From an exhibition at the
Historical Museum of Southern Florida
February 19 - May 30, 1999