George E. Merrick

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George Edgar Merrick (1886-1942) developer of Coral Gables, Florida photo from Florida Photographic Collection

George Edgar Merrick (1886–1942) was a real estate developer who is best known as the planner and builder of the city of Coral Gables, Florida in the 1920s, one of the first planned communities in the United States .

Family background and youth[edit]

Merrick was born in the Pittsburgh suburb of Springdale, Pennsylvania. His father, Solomon G. Merrick, was a Congregationalist minister. The family moved to Miami, Florida from Duxbury, MA in 1898 [1] when George was 12 years old. He attended Rollins College in Winter Park.


In October, 1915, George Merrick was appointed by the governor of Florida to replace F.A. Bryant as the county commissioner in District 1. He spent the next 15 months on the commission championing the building of roads in South Florida, including major arteries that would later serve to connect his well-planned community of Coral Gables with the fast-growing city of Miami. Along with Commissioner Edward DeVere Burr of Arch Creek, the two men ushered the vast majority of all road construction projects in Dade County, including the construction of South Dixie Highway (US 1), the Tamiami Trail across the Everglades, the County Causeway to Miami Beach, Ingraham Highway (later known as Old Cutler Road) along the coast, the Miami Canal Highway and many others. These improvements allowed the population of Greater Miami to quadruple from 1915 to 1921, transforming a pioneer territory into a burgeoning metropolis.

Coral Gables[edit]

Beginning in 1922, on 3,000 acres (12 km²) of citrus groves and land covered in pine trees which his father had left him, Merrick began carving out a town along the lines of the City Beautiful movement. He designed the new town in great detail, featuring wide, tree-lined boulevards, delicate bridges and sedate urban golf courses. Merrick's secret was his passionate devotion to aesthetics.

George Merrick is credited with the establishment of the University of Miami in Coral Gables in 1925 with a donation of 600 acres (2.4 km2) of land and a pledge of US$5 million. The following year, weeks before the start of the inaugural school year, a devastating hurricane on September 17–18 followed by the Great Depression ended Merrick's dreams at Coral Gables. He moved to Matecumbe Key, where he opened his Caribee Club not far from the famous Long Key Fishing Camp on nearby Long Key.

The monstrous Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, called the "Storm of the Century", destroyed almost everything on the Middle Keys, including Merrick's Caribee Club. He became postmaster of Miami in 1940, and died in 1942 at the age of 55.

George Merrick's former home in Coral Gables, Coral Gables House, is maintained as a historic house museum. The Soloman G. Merrick Building at the University of Miami at Coral Gables was built in honor of his father.

Personal life[edit]

On February 5, 1916, George E. Merrick married Eunice Isabella Peacock, daughter of Coconut Grove pioneers, R.A.S. Peacock and Lilian Irene Frow.[2] Merrick built a home for his bride, called Poinciana Place.[3] Poinciana Place is located at 937 Coral Way, in Coral Gables, Florida.[4]


  1. ^ Florida Editors 1925 p. 174
  2. ^ Bonawit, Oby J. (1980). Miami, Florida: Early Families and Records. Miami, FL: Genealogical Society of Greater Miami. p. 54. 
  3. ^ "Coral Gables: The City Beautiful". Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  4. ^ "Merrick House Brochure". Historical Resources. City of Coral Gables. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  • Ashley, Kathryne, George E. Merrick and Coral Gables (Cristal Bay Publishers, 1985).
  • "Minutes of the Dade County Commission 1915-1917" (Clerk of the Dade County Commission).
  • David Nolan, Fifty Feet in Paradise: The Booming of Florida. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984).
  • Florida Editors Association, The Book of Florida (No place); James O. Jones, 1925

External links[edit]