The “Gables Arcadians” Return Home

By Dr. Karelia Martinez Carbonell, President Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables

The Board of Directors of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, George Giving benefactors, and members of the City of Coral Gables Commission and other staff recently gathered to unveil and celebrate the return of two restored 1920s Arcadian streetlights to Coral Gables’ first public building…the Coral Gables Golf and Country Club.

Once upon a time in Coral Gables, miles of beautiful White Way street lights illuminated the plazas, boulevards, and avenues.  In preparation for the eight miles of lighting, thirty-five miles of wire were used to install the iron and steel posts erected throughout the city.  But, as one Coral Gables advertisement from 1922 stated, “The person who sees the White Way for the first time will appreciate it not for its iron and steel but for its beauty and grandeur.”

Most of the White Way streetlights that made up the eight mile illumination corridor were in the “Arcadian” style.  The Arcadian Street Lamp is a one piece cast iron pole weighing approximately two hundred and fifty pounds. They were originally manufactured by the George Cutter Company and then by Westinghouse.

The Arcadians had many options of mixing and matching components.  Greg Dalkranian, a collector and the restorer of these vintage streetlights, and who was also present at the ceremony, observed, “Looking at the beauty of these lamps, I would be willing to bet that Denman Fink and George Merrick personally put together the combination of post and globe from the Westinghouse catalog. That is why I call these lamps the Gables Arcadians.” 

In the fall of 2019, the HPACG Board unanimously voted to support the restoration efforts of the two Arcadians in partnership with the City Commission. Vice Mayor Vince Lago sponsored Resolution 19-9389 which passed 5-0.

HPACG stands proud to partner with the City on this unique opportunity to bring back a piece of lost history to the place where Merrick once stood and addressed the merits of buying into his dream of a city.

Speakers included Warren Adams, the city’s new historic preservation officer,  Karelia Martinez Carbonell, president HPACG, and Mayor Valdes-Fauli who made the closing remarks that addressed in detail the efforts made to return the Arcadians to their original spot. 

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5 thoughts on “The “Gables Arcadians” Return Home

  1. An HPACG vote, a City Commission Resolution and vote along with an opening ceremony – all for the restoration of TWO streetlamps? LOL – REALLY?? So what’s it gonna take to get the rest of these historic streetlamps restored in the city – a meeting of the United Nations?

    I really think it’s time we just finally be honest. The people and leadership of Coral Gables cannot possibly have the appreciation and dedication necessary to “preserve the historic nature of Coral Gables” beyond a museum and two streetlamps. Coral Gables was not our creation. It was the vision of a wonderful group of rich, white, European Americans Gringos. A vision that reflected their history, their values and what they considered beautiful. And it was – is! But those people are not hear any longer. The White Americans who lived here before us and made Coral Gables what it was when we arrived have mostly passed on. Do you realize that in 1985 Coral Gables was 88% white and 10% Hispanic? Today it’s the other way around. Think about that for a moment. No matter how hard we try otherwise we are making Coral Gables into a city that means something to us to US to OUR culture OUR heritage OUR history. AND THAT HAS TO BE OK! Let’s just go ahead and admit it so that we create transparency and a more efficient government instead touting George Merrick and the “City Beautiful” in public, but in private doing what seems best to US. We are not the “City Beautiful” anymore. We are “La Ciudad Hermosa.” We should not apologize for that, we should not feel bad about that.

    I supsect that the reason why all of the streetlamps in Coral Gables have not been through the what had to have been a very high cost of an authentic restoration for each lamp is because maybe we should be replacing these great old lamps with a NEW lamp that WE come up with and that WE like – and all at a fraction of the cost!

    I challenge each of you to go home and google “Havana 1950” and look at pictures of the progress of Coral Gables over the years as well as the newest development plans now in question. See anything familiar? AND THAT’S OK!!

    We live here now. We get to make the Coral Gables of the future into a city that WE want to live in. We can only do that if we free ourselves from these “historic” chains that seem to be wrapped around our necks.

    “Viva La Ciudad Hermosa!”

  2. Looking forward to seeing the one in front of my home restored.
    Have been waiting for news on the progress of this program.

  3. GLAD YOU ASKED Lou S…. Sadly, the unique Merrick-commissioned White Way lights [along Riviera Dr and elsewhere] continue to fall further into neglect even after years of advocacy and outright pleading from residents and preservationists. These streetlights are one of a kind in the entire country and their preservation needs to be prioritized.

    To be clear, some progress has been accomplished in terms of funding and hiring experts to do color and restoration studies, but then it stops and the lackadaisical attitude returns. It drags and lags.

    And to be fair, yes for the past year the pandemic put everything on hold. However, the 1926 decorative White Way lights restoration project had been sidelined long before the Covid lock down. Time is not a friend. What were originally 500 streetlights with carved bases symbolizing the life of Coral Gables, only about 40 lampposts still stand today, and of these, many have missing parts, suffer from metal corrosion, holes on the metal posts, and some have even fallen victim to graffiti.

    The remaining lights are deteriorating fast and the White Way street lights need a leader that will carry the project to fruition; a champion who will move the chess pieces and declares checkmate; someone willing to finish the job once and for all. It is time to turn the “eye-sores” into eye-candy. Please contact the City of Coral Gables Commission and request that they prioritize this long overdue project.

  4. Great to see. When will the White Way lights along Riviera Dr be restored? They have been sad eye-sores for decades.

  5. Congratulations are due to all those involved. A great day in the City Beautiful where we bring back elements of our history instead of demolishing it for financial benefits. Special gratitude to the HPACG board for spearheading the effort and to Vice Mayor Lago for having the vision to bring it up to the Commission!

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