|The first settlers came to Coconut Grove as far back as the 1830's, but it was not until 1873 that Horace P. Porter established the neighborhood's first post office and named the area Cocoanut Grove. A few years later, in the 1880's, Bahamian pioneers settled along Charles Avenue.
The area soon began to attract a number of intellectuals as well as nobility and many soon made their home in Coconut Grove. As the area began to gain recognition among the upper class, many Northerners built their winter residences there.
In 1891, pioneer Ralph Munroe built The Barnacle, his home overlooking Biscayne Bay. Today this building still stands as the oldest residence in Miami/Dade county on its original site. Other historic landmarks include the Plymouth Congregational Church, with a 300 year-old door from a Spanish monastery, and the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, one of the first Black churches in South Florida.
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, who purchased the bayfront property in 1910. Deering traveled throughout Europe with interior designer Paul Chalfin purchasing furniture and works of art for the house. Construction began in 1914 and a labor force of 1,000 craftsmen and artisans worked on the house for two years. The furnishings at Villa Vizcaya are shown today just as they were in Deering's time, including such early 20th centuries conveniences as a telephone switchboard, central vacuum cleaning system, elevators and fire sprinklers.
In 1916, botanist Dr. David Fairchild purchased a seven acre property at 4013 Douglas Road and called it The Kampong, meaning a cluster of houses in Malay. Now a botanical garden, Kampong was the site for visits of dignitaries such as Winston Churchill, Richard Leakey, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Dwight Eisenhower. Fairchild's father-in-law was Alexander Graham Bell, who invented a device for extracting fresh water from sea water while staying there. Botanists and horticulturists still come to conduct research. The Kampong is a member of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
In the 1950's, Coconut Grove began to attract artists from the US and Europe. The Grove soon had an international reputation as an artists' colony, and one would regularly see artists sitting at easels on the sidewalks and painting the local scene. By the 1960's, many art galleries were located there, as well as Grove House, an artists' co-op. In 1963, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, now known as the #1 arts festival in the country, was established.
On January 3, 1956, The Coconut Grove Playhouse debuted its first production with the U.S. premiere of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot", starring Bert Lahr and Tom Ewell and directed by Alan Schneider. The Playhouse, itself housed in an historic building, is recognized as one of South Florida's best venues for professional theater.
Another important date for Coconut Grove is 1960, when the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium opened just across the road from the Villa Vizcaya Museum. The Museum is one of the city's top attractions for tourists and local residents, including many school groups.
In 1979, the Streets of Mayfair opened in Coconut Grove. This uniquely-designed urban shopping center spreads out over two blocks and provides 228,000 square feet of specialty shops, boutiques, restaurants, outdoor cafes, theaters, and nightclubs.
In 1990, Cocowalk, a Mediterranean-style open-air shopping "village" with many colorful shops and outdoor cafes, became the centerpiece of the Coconut Grove as we know it today. The bustling center of Cocowalk reflects the true spirit of the Grove, with a mix of young and old, singles and families, tourists and residents.
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