Historical Museum of Southern Florida

Coral Gables : The City Beautiful

Recovery and War

Coral Gables went bankrupt in 1929, and reached its nadir in 1932, when the city issued just four building permits. Its bonded indebtedness hung like a dark cloud over it, and would not be removed till the prosperous 1950s.

Conditions improved somewhat in the second half of the 1930s, as new homes with a more modern look appeared. The Biltmore Hotel provided relief from the gloom of the era with colorful and exciting aquatic shows.

George Merrick returned to Coral Gables in the second half of the 1930s and began selling real estate again. By 1940, he had become the postmaster for Dade County. He was still heavily in debt at the time of his death in 1942.

World War II proved a boon to Coral Gables and the entire area, as thousands of soldiers came for training, occupying many of the underused buildings, such as at the University of Miami. The Biltmore Hotel became an army hospital.

Postwar Prosperity

Coral Gables (and the rest of the nation) entered an expansive period following the war, an era characterized by spiraling population growth, concomitant residential development, and the emergence of Miracle Mile (formerly Coral Way) as the cityfs showpiece retail street.

The University of Miami, on the brink of closing in the Depression Decade, now boomed as veterans, aided by the GI Bill, flocked to its campuses. The formerly forlorn Main Campus was now on its way to serving a growing institution.

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New Directions

In the 1960s, Coral Gablesf commercial development led to the rise of several significant buildings in the downtown quarter, as the old restrictions on height were waived. Increasingly, large American corporations adopted Coral Gables as their headquarters for Latin American and Caribbean divisions.

Residential construction spread to undeveloped acreage in areas east of Dixie Highway (U.S. One). Developments, such as Gables By The Sea, built large, new homes. Tahiti Beach closed in 1974, and another new, exclusive development, Cocoplum, provided more homes for residents.

A Growing Reverence for the Past

In recent decades, this affluent city began to protect its rich heritage with effective historic preservation and restoration programs. Large buildings continue to appear in its crowded downtown sector as the Gables grows in importance as a notable city for firms with business interests south of here. With its growing Hispanic population, Coral Gables, like its nearby neighbors, is changing rapidly, while preparing for the new century with confidence stemming from more than 75 years of achievement and development.

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From an exhibition at the
Historical Museum of Southern Florida
February 19 - May 30, 1999