I like living in Coral Gables because it has a unique charm to it. The century old trees, the Mediterranean revival architecture (The Biltmore & City Hall), and historic landmarks (the Venetian Pool & the entrance markers to the city) are a big part of what makes Coral Gables beautiful and pleasant to live in. So I was excited when a non-profit that focused on preserving this part of our city reached out to me. The Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables raises funds to restore, maintain, and raise awareness of historic landmarks in Coral Gables.
The De Soto Fountain
The city of Coral Gables does a great job maintaining historic structures. However, over the years some historic landmarks have slipped through the cracks. It’s in these cases that we are lucky to have the HPACG to raise awareness of the need for historic preservation.
The White Way Lights
Rusted White Way Light Base
Currently, the HPACG is working on the restoration efforts of the 78 remaining “White Way Lights”. The 500 historic street lights were designed in 1926 by Coral Gables’ original artistic advisor, Denman Fink. These “White Way Lights” are located along University Drive from Granada Boulevard past Ponce de Leon and along Riviera Drive from Granada to University Drive. The designs of the lamp bases represent the Four Seasons/Ages theme and depict labor, architecture, horticulture, and art. The same theme is reflected on other City landmarks such as the City Hall dome murals and the relief sculptures on the De Soto Fountain. These street lights were designated as a City Historic Landmark Site in 1981 and included on the City Historic Landmark Inventory. Unfortunately, they have been forgotten and neglected with some of them rusting through.
Karelia Martinez Carbonell, President of HPA of Coral Gables, is very passionate about the subject of the White Way Lights. Pointing out that the sculptural details on the lights make them “art in public places. George Merrick had the vision of living with art and for it to be practical. He commissioned beautiful works so people could enjoy them and appreciate the art.”
The City of Coral Gables supports the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables’ efforts and plans on restoring these historic street lights. Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick stated the city of Coral Gables has appropriated $200,000 from the budget to restore and preserve the White Way Lights.
Alhambra Water Tower
The History of the HPACG
The HPACG of Coral Gables was founded in 1991 by a group of homeowners whose homes are historic designated properties in the Coral Gables Register of Historic Places. It started out as a networking club sharing historic repair information and socializing. As years went by, new members continued to join the organization who were simply interested in historic preservation. The new mix of members changed the dynamics and focus of the organization. Today, the HPACG boasts over 100 members and its purpose is to promote, protect, and preserve historic landmarks within Coral Gables.
Since its inception, the HPACG has contributed to restoration and education efforts of the Alhambra Water Tower, the De Soto Fountain, the Granada Boulevard entrances, the Coral Way-Granada fountains, and The Coral Gables Museum’s historic walking tours. The historic walking tours are open to everyone and they are free. Simply, show up at 11 am on Saturdays at the Coral Gables Museum for the 1.5 hour tour of historic downtown.
Donating to the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables
You can always make a donation to the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables via their website. For those interested in making a more substantial donation, consider joining the George Giving Society. The George Giving Society has different donation tiers including: George Circle ($1000+), Terra Cota ($500 – $999), Sienna ($250 – 499), and Coral ($100 – $249). These donations help run the HPACG throughout the year and provide funds for their several projects.
You can also become a member on their website. Annual membership is $30 for individual members, $40 for family.
The Biltmore Hotel
Attend the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables monthly socials. The events are free and open to members and non-members alike. The purpose of the socials is to discuss historical preservation, highlight the historic building where the social is held and meet other people interested in historic preservation. The next one will be an ice cream social in August. Visit their website for more information historiccoralgables.org