Brief History of Coconut Grove
The earliest settlers of Coconut Grove were the Pent and Frow families. In the 1830's both families were lighthouse keepers at Cape Florida and homesteaders in what is now Coconut Grove.
Another settler of that era was Edmund D. Beasley who homesteaded 160 acres bay front property. In 1873, after Beasley's death, his widow rented their home to Dr. Horace P. Porter. He lived there for only a year but during that time established a post office that he named "Cocoanut Grove." When Porter left the area, the post office was closed, but years later it was reopened using the same name.
Another pioneer was "Jolly Jack" Peacock, an Englishman who settled in the south part of the Grove. He persuaded his brother Charles, then owner of a wholesale meat business in London, to join him. Charles Peacock, his wife Isabella and their three sons eventually settled in Coconut Grove and in 1882 opened the Bay View House, later called the Peacock Inn, the first hotel in the area. Black workers came from the Bahamas to work at the Inn and established the first Black community in Miami, along Charles Avenue. The Peacock Inn attracted all kinds of visitors including scientists, authors, and nobility, many of whom remained to make Coconut Grove their permanent home. Among the settlers were yacht designer and wrecker Ralph Munroe whose home, The Barnacle, is now a state historic site; homesteader Flora McFarlane, Coconut Grove's first schoolteacher and founder of the Housekeeper's Club (now The Woman's Club of Coconut Grove); and author Kirk Munroe.
The fledgling community grew and prospered, and by the early years of the 20th century, a school, library, Sunday school, chapel, and yacht club were built. Attracted by the climate, wealthy Northerners, such as James and William Deering and William Jennings Bryan made Coconut Grove their winter home. In 1925, the City of Miami annexed Coconut Grove, but it continued to retain its own identity. After World War II, as the population of South Florida mushroomed, Coconut Grove continued to grow, and artists were an important influence.
Coconut Grove, with its verdant landscape, serene bay front setting, and casual ambiance has always attracted artists. In the 1950's, artists from all over the US and as far away as Europe, settled in Coconut Grove and established studios. The Grove soon became known as an artists colony, and it was not unusual to see artists setting up their easels on the sidewalks and painting the local scene. By the 1960's there were many thriving art galleries as well as Grove House, an artists' co-op. In 1963, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, now recognized as one of the leading arts festivals in the country, was established. Rising real estate prices in the 1980's and 1990's caused most of the galleries to close, but the artists have remained. In 1998, local artists formed The One Ear Society, a group that holds juried exhibits in donated spaces. While much of the "old Grove" has disappeared, it is still possible to get a glimpse of what life was like in the past by visiting Villa Vizcaya, The Barnacle, and The Kampong, three vastly different Coconut Grove homes.
Villa Vizcaya, now a decorative arts museum set in the midst of magnificent formal gardens, was originally the home of International Harvester Vice President James Deering. Deering purchased the bay front property in 1910 and hired architect F. Burrell Hoffman, Jr. to design the house and an Italian Baroque farm village containing a dairy, poultry house, barns, garage, and staff housing. This village enabled Vizcaya to be entirely self-sufficient.
Deering traveled throughout Europe with interior designer Paul Chalfin purchasing furniture and works of art for the house. Construction began in 1914 and 1,000 craftsmen and artisans worked on the house for two years. Deering moved in on Christmas Day, 1916, arriving by yacht. All the furnishings Villa Vizcaya are just as they were in Deering's time, including such early 20th centuries amenities as a telephone switchboard, central vacuum cleaning system, elevators and fire sprinklers. Deering enjoyed nine winters at Villa Vizcaya before his death in 1925. Deering's descendants sold Villa Vizcaya to Miami-Dade County in 1952, and in 1970 it was placed on the Register of Historic Sites.
The Barnacle built in 1891 by Commodore Ralph Munroe, The Barnacle is the oldest home in Miami-Dade County still on its original site. Munroe, a native of New York City, moved to Coconut Grove in 1886 and made his living by designing yachts and working as a wrecker, salvaging boats that had run aground in Biscayne Bay. A year after he moved to the Grove, he founded the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club and was its Commodore for more than 20 years.
The Barnacle, named for the distinctive shape of its roof, was designed as a one-story house facing Biscayne Bay. Three verandahs, and a skylight, which could be opened with a pulley, provided ventilation in those pre-air conditioning days. Munroe married in 1895 and when a larger house was needed for his growing family, he raised the house and built a new first floor below it. A library wing was later added.
The Munroe family continued to live at The Barnacle until 1973 when they sold the house and its furnishings to the State of Florida to be used as a museum. The Barnacle is operated as a State Historic Site by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Kampong contains an array of flowering trees and tropical fruit cultivars.
The Kampong, a seven-acre botanical garden, was once the home of botanist Dr. David Fairchild. Fairchild and his wife Marion purchased the property at 4013 Douglas Road in 1916, and called it The Kampong, meaning a cluster of houses in Malay.
As Chief of the Seed and Introduction Section of the US Department of Agriculture, Fairchild traveled all over the world collecting plant specimens and bringing them back to his Coconut Grove home. Scientists and world leaders such as Winston Churchill, Richard Leakey, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Dwight Eisenhower have visited the Kampong. Another visitor was Fairchild's father-in-law Alexander Graham Bell, who invented a device for extracting fresh water from sea water while staying at The Kampong.
To this day, botanists and horticulturists come to The Kampong to conduct research. The Kampong, now part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
“The Grove” has been dubbed “the village with a rhythm all its own.” A rhythm that is played out in tree-lined streets, scores of shops, restaurants and night-spots and a throbbing, upbeat street life that vibrates with a character all its own. Coconut Grove may have changed since its days as a bohemian village populated by artists and radicals, but its zany charm and energy are as potent as ever. Located on Biscayne Bay just ten minutes south of Downtown Miami, The Grove is unlike any other neighborhood in Greater Miami and the Beaches.
Coconut Grove’s waterfront parks offer the best vantage points for observing manatees, wildlife and the sailboats in Biscayne Bay. Dinner Key, originally the base for Pan American World Airways’ seaplane flights from Greater Miami in the 1930s, now houses Miami City Hall — which was converted from the original hangar. Earlier Grove history is evident at The Barnacle, the 110-year old home of pioneer Commodore Ralph Munroe. The grandest home of all is Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Italian Renaissance-style villa built by millionaire James Deering in 1916. Set on 10 acres of formal gardens and fountains with Biscayne Bay as backdrop, the 70-room estate is filled with fabulous furnishings and antiques. Vizcaya was purchased by Miami-Dade County in 1952 and opened to the public as museum. Nearby, the Miami Museum of Science & Space
Coconut Grove is a village with a rhythm all its own. A rhythm that is played out in tree-lined streets, scores of shops, restaurants and night-spots and a throbbing, upbeat street life that vibrates with a character all its own. Coconut Grove may have changed since its days as a bohemian village populated by artists and radicals, but its zany charm and energy are as potent as ever. Located on Biscayne Bay just ten minutes south of Downtown Miami, Coconut Grove is unlike any other condo neighborhood in Greater Miami and the Beaches. Luxury waterfront and ocean view condominiums flourish throughout this very secluded upscale neighborhood. Popular condos include Grove Hill, Grove Isle I II III, Mutiny Park, and the Ritz Carlton Residences.