|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.
Historic photo of the Peacock Inn
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. 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.
As the population of South Florida mushroomed, Coconut Grove Real Estate continues to grow.
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 as seen from the bay.
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 Coconut Grove in its current state.
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 Kampong contains an array of flowering trees and tropical fruit cultivars.
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.