Bonnie Bolton Appeals, Following City Denial Of Her Application For Historic Designation Of The 71-Year-Old Garden Of Our Lord

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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Just over three months after Bonnie Bolton filed her application for historic designation of Coral Gables’ Historic Garden of Our Lord, the City’s Director of Historical Resources and Cultural Arts, Warren Adams, has decided to deny Bolton’s application.

As previously reported on Gables Insider, Coral Gables resident and daughter of the late activist Roxcy O’Neal Bolton, Bonnie Bolton, has been working with members of the community to preserve Coral Gables’ Historic Garden of Our Lord.

Located on the property of the former St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church (110 Phoenetia Avenue), the Garden of Our Lord traces its history back over 70 years, to 1951.

Bolton filed her 123-page petition for historic designation on August 19th, 2022. In it, she receives cooperation and statements from several respected members of the community.

However, Adams, a former City of Miami official, did not agree with the arguments presented.

In a letter to Bolton dated November 29th, Adams states, “Please be advised that after careful research and study of our records, along with the information provided with the application, it is the determination of this office that 110 Phoenetia Avenue does not qualify as presented for listing as a Local Historic Landmark in the Coral Gables Register of Historic Places.”

Adams explains that he based his determination on Article 8, Section 8-103 of the Coral Gables Zoning Code, which states that “in order to qualify for designation as a local historic landmark or local historic landmark district, individual properties must have significant character, interest or value as part of the historical, cultural, archaeological, aesthetic, or architectural heritage of the City, state or nation. For a multiple property nomination, eligibility will be based on the establishment of historic contexts, of themes which describe the historical relationship of the properties.”

Adams explains that “Pursuant to Article 8, Section 8-104 A. 1., ‘if the department’s initial determination is
that the property does not meet the minimum eligibility criteria for listing, the applicant may present the proposal for designation to the Historic Preservation Board.’ If you desire to present this proposal to the Historic Preservation Board, it must be at the December 21, 2022, Historic Preservation Board meeting.”

He also requires that notices for the meeting be sent by Bolton to neighbors within 1,000 feet of the property by December 8th.

However, the December 21st date is in direct violation of Bolton’s right granted in the Zoning Code.

The line following the quote used by Adams in his letter states, “The applicant must submit a report within 30 days of the eligibility determination which describes in sufficient detail the criteria the potential historic landmark satisfies for designation. The applicant will then present at the next regularly scheduled Historic Preservation Board meeting where notice can be provided.;”

This would provide Bolton with the ability to submit her report by December 29th, and present to the Historic Preservation Board at its regularly scheduled January Meeting. Adams’ determination forces her to submit her report prior to the meeting and present to the Board during Christmas week, when many in our community are traveling or unavailable.

Following Bolton’s request for the City to honor the time she is legally entitled to, the City granted Bolton the 30 days and is placing the item on the Historic Preservation Board’s January 18th agenda.

Bolton will be responsible for the full cost of mailing notices of the meeting to residents within 1,000 feet. The vendors provided to her by the City wanted upwards of $1,300 and $2,300 dollars for the printing of labels only. Following the intervention of Deputy City Attorney Gus Ceballos, Bolton was provided with an option that will reduce that cost to approximately $575 and include the labels and full mailing.


16 thoughts on “Bonnie Bolton Appeals, Following City Denial Of Her Application For Historic Designation Of The 71-Year-Old Garden Of Our Lord

  1. Why does this story stop at Jan 18? There is still much more to be told , especially with two new commission members. The final chapter has not been written!
    When developers win – residents lose! Besides it is truly The garden of the Lord. We are only the temporary caretakers. So let’s be good caretakers!

  2. Good luck to Bonnie! The stated reason for denial – which I think is that the garden apparently does NOT have “significant character, interest or value as part of the historical, cultural, archaeological, aesthetic, or architectural heritage of the City, state or nation” – seems so subjective and arbitrary. It seems to give a lot of leeway, and where there is $$$ involved, I imagine there is little incentive for the city to NOT capitalize on that leeway. Very sad all around.

  3. This historic garden sits right next to the historic Coral Gables Woman’s Club. The Woman’s Club is designated historic and (luckily) as such, is protected. Thanks to the women behind the club we will be celebrating 100 years in 2023.

    St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church (110 Phoenetia Avenue), the Garden of Our Lord traces its history back over 70 years, to 1951. It should be preserved as part of history as well.

    Let’s all get behind Bonnie Bolton and help her fight this. We need to preserve what remaining history there is in Coral Gables.

  4. City spent many MILLIONS buying land from certain people, including Developer V Torre on Salzedo ST, for tiny Parks. Why won’t the City do the same thing now?

  5. The garden is by 8th street who cares. Let’s build a nice tax paying high rise. Glad high rise Jim is back!

  6. Irretrievably lost to the City and replaced by none memorable structures, the Collesium, the Bus Depot block ; a historic building across from City Hall allowed to be commercially defaced and then demolished. Historic preservation is to allow the future to experience the worthness of the past that came together to make a great City. The Garden of Our Lord is such a historical presence and should be preserved.

  7. “The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry,
    of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the
    point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence
    of a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and
    if you are not human, you don’t have a soul.”
    Sir Thomas More

    “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food
    and medicine for the soul.”
    Luther Burbank

    “We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How
    much is enough?”
    Wendall Berry

    ‘Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into
    the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”
    May Sarton

    “A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches
    industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”
    Gertrude Jekyll

    “A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more
    could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”
    Victor Hugo (Les Misérables)

    “When you increase the number of gardens, you increase the
    number of heavens too!”
    Mehmet Murat ildan

    “To beautify the Earth is the supreme Art.”
    Pietros Maneos

    “If these are the achievements of man, give me the
    achievements of geraniums.”
    Beverley Nichols

    “In our best moments we are no less than a garden, that serves
    life, not ourselves.”
    Benjamin Vogt

    “We are stardust
    Billion year old carbon
    We are golden
    Caught in the devil’s bargain
    And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”
    Joni Mitchell

  8. In answer to Maria’s question:
    “When she presents are residents allowed to attend in a show of camaraderie?”

    YES. Residents who wish to support Bonnie Bolton’s application to preserve the garden are encouraged to attend the Historic Preservation Board meeting on January 18 at 4pm City Hall Commission Chambers.

    Also, letters of support should be submitted by January 11. Letters can be emailed to Mr Warren Adams and copied to the City Clerk.

    Emails: [email protected]; [email protected]

  9. I disagree with the reasons cited to dismiss the garden as a historical destination. When she presents are residents allowed to attend in a show of camaraderie?

  10. Quid pro quo. Let Pino build tall building on Church & Academy footprint, solely with the CONDITION garden is preserved. City spent millions buying land for small community parks. Why hasn’t it occurred to City officials the possibility of acquiring part of the property? in the past, Kerdyk Jr even wanted to expropriate the McBride’s land across the street from the Biltmore. Our new city leaders seem so developer friendly!

  11. How corrupt is it going to get, before the citizens of downtown coral Gables… that live in this area standup against crazy development… follow the money.

  12. Good Luck Bonnie – many residents are supporting you in this struggle to save the Garden of Our Lord. The historic preservation board must realize this special place deserves to be saved.

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