Peter Pennoyer Miami Bicycle Tour

Great sights are best seen from the road, and few cities are as good as Miami for a bike ride. What first drew me to Miami – and the reason I opened an office there – is the ingenuity behind the architecture of the mansions loaned from Venice to hotels related to Radio City. Coral Gables has its own list of architectural gems so I constructed this tour to show a friend the highlights. If you see these buildings at your own pace, you will also experience a city whose charm and character are characterized by an incomparable sense of place.


Café Demetrio (tour start)

date:: 1926

address:: 300 Alhambra circle

style:: Revitalization of the Mediterranean


Built in 1926 during the heyday of Coral Gables development, this Mediterranean-style building was once the home of the Miami Daily News, Coral Gables’ first newspaper. Typical of the style, it adapts, simplifies, and takes license with traditional architectural forms found in the native architecture of Spain and Italy. European buildings are made of similar materials – clay barrel tile roofs, stucco walls, and stone details. Like the buildings it emulates, Café Demetrio has a courtyard and is the perfect location for the café’s regular musical performances on weekends. Make sure to have a coffee before you start the tour.


Coral Gables Town Hall

Architect: Phineas Paist with the artist Denman Fink

Date: 1928

Address: 405 Biltmore Way

Style: Revitalization of the Mediterranean


Head southwest to Coral Gables Town Hall on 405 Biltmore Way. Designed by Phineas Paist with artist Denman Fink and completed in 1928, this building is typical of the Mediterranean Revival style preferred by many of Coral Gables’ early architects. Note the texture of the coral rock (“coral rock” or “coral limestone” are the local names for the stone, although technically it is Oolitic limestone), the colossal Corinthian colonnade across from Coral Way, and the perfectly scaled loggias across from Biltmore Way . The town hall is open to the public. Step inside to see the impressive interior. The stone staircase was modeled by one in Cordova, Spain. The interior of the dome is covered with a painted mural by Denman Fink.


Merrick House

Architect: Althea Fink Merrick

Date: 1910

Address: 907 Coral Way


From City Hall, continue on Coral Way, where each home is surrounded by lush greenery and monuments and small parks mark major public intersections. Note the ancient live oak trees arching across the street as you travel a few blocks down to 907 Coral Way, the home of Coral Gables founder George Merrick. A major landmark in Coral Gables history, this home has been carefully restored. George Merrick’s parents, Solomon and Althea Merrick, bought the original home and 160 acre property in 1899, and it was Althea Merrick who set out to design an addition to the original structure from 1862, like that from New England Serlian windows on the second floor above the entrance, a wood-paneled staircase, double-hanging windows and a proportionally large amount of roof to wall. Still, adjustments were made for climatic reasons, such as the deep porches for shade and outdoor living, and the use of the local coral rock for the walls. For information on public tour schedules, visit the city’s website or call ahead (305-460-5093).


Venetian pool

Architect: Phineas Paist with the artist Denman Fink

Date: 1924

Address: 2701 De Soto Boulevard

Style: Italian revival


Go three blocks south to 2701 De Soto Boulevard and take a dip in the historic Venetian Swimming Pool, a public swimming pool that was once a limestone quarry that was used for George Merrick’s house. It was built by Phineas Paist with Denman Fink in 1924 and is the only pool on the National Register of Historic Places. The observation towers, loggias and bridges were designed in homage to Venice, Italy and are symbolic of the imaginative and romantic architectural style that gave Coral Gables such a distinctive and appealing style and a remarkable sense of place. The pool is open to the public and you can visit the city’s website for opening times.


Biltmore Hotel

Architect: Shultz & Weaver

Date: 1926

Address: 3010 De Soto Boulevard

Style: Spanish revival


As you head south on De Soto Boulevard, you’ll discover more parks and monuments (like De Soto Plaza) that are vital to Merrick’s vision of Coral Gables as a garden city. At the end of the boulevard is the Biltmore Hotel, designed in 1926 by Shultz & Weaver, New York architects known for their hotels built in the 1920s, including the Pierre on Fifth Avenue and notable local landmarks like the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. The central mass of the hotel and the end of the boulevard is the 315 foot high clock tower of the Biltmore. Modeled after the bell tower of Seville Cathedral, it is a landmark visible from much of Coral Gables. The architecture is Spanish revival and the scale is impressive. Upon entering the hotel, guests are found in the large lobby, which is surrounded by two-story Corinthian columns that support a painted wooden coffered ceiling. The ballroom, known as the Alhambra Room, is worth a quick visit to see the ornate Islamic-style ceiling. The loggia, which is located directly behind the entrance hall, is shaded by an arcade of Corinthian columns and surrounds the inner courtyard with potted palms, dining tables and a bubbling fountain. The hotel pool, which will be the largest in the world when it is completed, is shaded on one side with loggias, and in the tower that underlines the end is the bar where drinks are served by the pool. The Biltmore embodies the architectural thrust of Coral Gables; It’s a mix of architectural elements from Spanish, Moorish and Italian precedents, starting with a big, bold idea and adapting everything to the local climate.


United Church of Christ

Architect: Richard Kiehnel

Date: 1923

Address: 3010 De Soto Boulevard

Style: Spanish revival


Across from the Biltmore Hotel is the United Church of Christ, the first church in Coral Gables. Built in 1923 by George Merrick in honor of his pastor father Solomon, this church is an extravagant example of Spanish Baroque architecture. The lush door and bell tower believe that the interior of the church, to which it is open, is more simply furnished Sunday Services and weddings. Visit the Church website for hours.


University of Miami School of Architecture

Architect: Leon Krier

Date: 2005

Address: 1223 Dickinson Drive


Take the scenic route south of the United Church of Christ along Granada, past clusters of Colonial Revival Houses from the 1920s. Part of Merrick’s vision was to populate Coral Gables with neighborhoods of different architectural styles. Turn right on Ponce De Leon Boulevard and enter the park-like campus of the University of Miami on Stanford Drive, lined with mature Royal Palms. The Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center is a group of new buildings designed by architect Leon Krier and completed in 2005. Krier, winner of the prestigious Driehaus Prize, is an internationally recognized practitioner and architectural theorist best known for the master planning of Poundbury in England and Cayala in Guatemala. Krier’s designs are nifty examples of contemporary traditional architecture – they showcase traditional architectural forms that respond to the style of George Merrick’s Coral Gables while infusing Merrick’s vision with modern imagination and interpretation. The University’s School of Architecture offers a popular series of lectures every semester in Glasgow Hall, which is open to the public. The Irvin Korach Gallery often exhibits works by students, faculties and internationally renowned architects. Visit the school’s website for more information.


Coral Gables Museum

Architects: Phineas Paist and Harold Steward

Date: 1939

Address: 285 Aragon Avenue

Style: Revitalization of the Mediterranean


If you head north on University Drive, you’ll start the longest leg of the tour at three and a half miles. Follow Ponce de Leon Boulevard to Aragon Avenue and proceed to the Coral Gables Museum at 285 Aragon Avenue. Originally designed as a police and fire station in 1939, this charming Mediterranean revival building has been transformed into the Coral Gables Museum. The museum’s mission is to celebrate the civic arts of architecture, town planning, green planning, and historic preservation and environmental protection, with a special focus on the history and cultural landscape of Coral Gables. The sparse details reflect the austerity measures of the Great Depression, and the simplified, incised fluted pilasters at the entrance to Aragon show the late 1930s taste for the Art Deco style. The limestone impost blocks that support the flat arches of the original car doors and are carved in the shape of firefighters are one of the charming details that make the building a local favorite. Current exhibitions and opening times can be found on the museum’s website.


Books & books

Architects and data: Lee Wade, 1927. Completion and renovation by Phineas Paist and Harold Steward, 1936.

Address: 265 Aragon Avenue

Style: Revitalization of the Mediterranean


Finally, park your bike next to the museum in front of Books & Books, one of the most respected independent bookstores in the country. The bookstore is an immaculate 1927 Mediterranean rebirth building, with original tile floors, a fireplace, beamed ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with all-themed books. Relax in the open air courtyard and order a cortadito (espresso with steamed milk) and Cuban sliders from the cafe while you enjoy the live music and authoring events the store hosts most evenings. You can find the calendar of events on the bookstore’s website.

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