Since its founding in the 1920s by developer George Merrick, Coral Gables has become one of Florida’s most beautiful, historic, cultural, and well-heeled cities—yet it wasn’t until 2011 that local leaders finally achieved a city museum. The result occupies 24,000 square feet in downtown’s original fire and police HQ, a creamy coral-stone Mediterranean-Revival affair adorned with carved heads of long-ago firemen. At the core of the nine light, airy galleries lies the story of how the Gables was carved out of orange groves and wilderness, including plenty of period documents, artifacts, and fascinating photos and artwork. Beyond that, rotating exhibitions focus on, for example, local artists, Coral Gables sister cities, and a variety of themes with less immediately obvious local connections (such as the recent Photos of Pavia, focusing on that Italian city in the 19th through 21st centuries). I’d recommend pairing this with a visit to the founding family’s nearby homestead, Merrick House, 907 Coral Way ([tel] 305/460-5361), open for tours Sunday and Wednesday (call for details).
- David Paul Appell