Entrances Hark Back To Old Spain And Stand With Wide-Open Arms Welcoming The Passerby

Karelia Martinez Carbonell

Martinez Carbonell is the president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables


July 1921. One hundred years ago, the new city plan was launched and it was garden-like and beautiful.  

George Merrick’s overall plan for Coral Gables was strongly influenced by the City Beautiful and the Garden City movements.  And because Merrick set high standards for his new city, he hired Frank Button, landscape architect and civil engineer, who embraced the work of City Beautiful movement pioneer Frederick Law Olmstead. Button’s directive was to produce the first comprehensive map of the development of the new city. 

Himself influenced by these movements, Button’s street grid opened up at strategic locations to include grand entrances to provide visual interest for both the pedestrian and motorist. The entrances foreshadowed the community within, giving the visitor the first glimpse of the romantic Mediterranean theme of Coral Gables. The scale and artistry set the entrances of Coral Gables apart and today they stand as hallmarks of the City.

“The entrances are not mere glorified corner posts…here at Coral Gables, they have real significance. Much effort is being expended in making them hark back to old Spain in general spirit and setting. It is our ambition that they will stand constantly with wide-open arms to welcome the passerby.” [Denman Fink, 1921]

The Coral Gables entrances help define the city.  Distinctive and grand, these structures reflect the beauty of the city lying within them. The entrances, designed by Denman Fink and Frank Button with assistance from architects Phineas Paist and Walter DeGarmo, are in keeping with Merrick’s plan of a Mediterranean-inspired city.  Denman’s designs, based on his travels throughout Spain, did not disappoint.  Although eight entrances were planned, only four were completed between 1922 and 1927 with names such as Granada, Alhambra, Douglas, and Prado. Below is the information on the four historic entrances.

Granada Entrance [1922] –Granada Boulevard and SW 8th Street [Tamiami Trail]

It is believed the entrance is similar to an entrance to the City of Granada in Spain. It was the first entrance built. Constructed of rough-cut coral rock, Cuban tile floors and hidden benches.

Commercial [Alhambra] Entrance [1924]  –Alhambra Circle, Madeira Avenue, and Douglas Road

A 600-foot curved coral rock wall forms separate gateways into the City. It has flowering vines, pergolas, and trellises.

Douglas Entrance [1925-1927] –Douglas Road and SW 8th Street [Tamiami Trail]

Architect Walter DeGarmo and Phineas Paist contributed to the design of this main entrance. Costing  $1 million, it housed a tower, gateway, and two wings of shops and apartments. Constructed of rough cast concrete and oolitic stone it boasts of details such as wrought iron balconies and barrel tile roofs.  The entrance was closed off to cars in 1957. In 1966, a group of women joined together to help save the Douglas Entrance from demolition. This monumental preservation effort led to the establishment of the Villagers, Inc. The organization capitalized on their success to save other endangered Miami-area sites.

Country Club Prado Entrance [1927]Country Club Prado and SW 8th Street [Tamiami Trail]

The last entrance constructed is a 240-foot wide oak-line parkway also costing $1 million. It is built of concrete and stucco with exposed brick and is fashioned as an elaborate formal Italian Garden. There are 20 free-standing pillars topped with classical urns and lamps. It also includes a reflecting pool and two pedestal fountains.

Information cited in this article is courtesy of the 1986 Historic Coral Gables, Junior League of Miami guide booklet and the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Office.

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10 thoughts on “Entrances Hark Back To Old Spain And Stand With Wide-Open Arms Welcoming The Passerby

  1. Karelia, thank you for responding to my comments, but, honestly, the solution is SIMPLE AND NOW! The City should maintain, beautify and secure our landmarks. Right now the ones I see everyday need landscaping, some washing, painting, lighting and present-day high-tech security (instead of dreadful metal barricades like on the water tower on Alhambra.)
    Josefine

  2. Josefine thank you for your observation. As a matter pf fact, just recently two local preservation advocates have submitted to the city commission a proposal to create a Landmark Advisory Board whose function would be to “act in the public interest, in partnership with the city’s preservation efforts, to make informed and equitable recommendations concerning the maintenance and care of the city’s public landmarks.”

  3. Nice renderings and article, but a closer look at these beautiful and historic entrances will find many, like the ones at Alhambra and Granada and the ones at Granada and Coral Way in need of landscaping, washing, and watering and upkeep! Landscape lights should also be added. I have been writing about this for a few months now and I have not seen anything done! Maybe the Preservation Board should take the lead and follow up!

  4. Interesting. These entrances predate Coral Gables’ founding in 1925. Nevertheless, they have stood as entrances to Coral Gables for nearly a century and there is no City of Central Miami. I will look forward to the Doc Dammers 100th Anniversary. I’m now informed that the Old Cutler Road entrance won’t be upgraded until 2023 at the earliest. Maybe landscaping sooner.

  5. Actually, Norman, those entrances were built by Doc Dammers for his proposed city of Central Miami. Edward E. “Doc” Dammers was the well-known auctioneer who handled all of Merrick’s land auctions. On November 28, 1921, 5,000 people gathered for the first auction of lots in Section A. Although Dammers was Merrick’s head of sales, Merrick didn’t see the proposed Central Miami plan as competition. I’m fact, the land from Coral Way to Bird Road was platted in 1924 by the same engineer who surveyed Coral Gables. Of course, you can guess that Dammers’ vision was never realized, what with the hurricane and the land bust. You can learn more during Doc Dammers Day on Sunday, October 24! This multi-venue event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of that first auction will be hosted by the Coral Gables Merrick House in conjunction with Venetian Pool and the Coral Gables Museum. Watch for more details at Gables Insider, social media, and the City of Coral Gables website. Tickets will be sold on Eventbrite.

  6. I think the towers along the canal at Red Road and SW 34 and 35 Streets were built by Merrick as an entry feature for the visitors who would come by boat. It’s not in Coral Gables but Merrick may have wanted to expand the city to include that area.

  7. We have an entrance that is a glorified corner post with a weed growing out of it located at Red Road and Old Cutler Road. It has been the subject of much talk, including architectural plans, for years without action. Time to fix it!

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