Sometimes, it’s so tempting to stay in our cocoon like boats — after all, once you are on board, why would you want to get off a boat except for laundry, land heads and supermarkets — and West Marine?
The parade of winter storms of ’09-’10 taught us how important it is to remember to get off our boats and explore the communities we visit and as much as I cherish the lonely anchorages where it’s just us, the wind, the water, the birds and the under water life, I admit that civilization has its charms. Dinner Key is one of those places that has some serious charm. Here are two places where we found charm and connection to the essential spirit of Coconut Grove, both within walking distance of the Dinner Key City Marina.
City Hall is well worth a visit and it’s literally next door.
If you’re here on a week day, worth a visit is City Hall, adjacent to the marina (to the right facing the land). It’s so close you can probably see it from your slip or your mooring ball. Since 1954, City Hall has been right here in the former Pan American seaplane terminal. Pan American World Airways’ flying boats were based here in the 1930s and ‘40s and Dinner Key became a main hub for air traffic between North and South America until seaplanes went out of style. At that point, Pan Am moved its hub to Miami.
The terminal has been carefully restored and you can now see wonderful art deco murals commemorating aviation history along with Zodiac symbols on the ceiling that had been painted over in the ’50s. There is also a small display of fascinating photographs from the seaplane era, including one of Charles Lindbergh. For more information about this historic site, check out the City of Miami website: http://www.ci.miami.fl.us
Step through a Time Portal at Barnacle Historic State Park.
The Barnacle Historic State Park is reason alone to visit Dinner Key and do so on a weekend or Monday. A 20-minute walk (just under a mile) from the marina, up Main Avenue on the left hand side, you will see a little off-set treed area with a historic marker and a path. Follow that path — in a moment you will forget the bustling commerce and you will enter a real “hammock” of indigenous Florida vegetation and towering ancient live oaks.
You are now in the late 1890s when Miami was undeveloped and natural. Here you can explore the five acre park that was once the homestead of a real character of a guy from Staten Island who “discovered” Biscayne Bay. Ralph Middleton Munroe, a relative of the poet Longfellow, and a follower of the transcendentalist movement, settled in Biscayne Bay, first in a tent camp, and then in a house that, thanks to the generous donation by his heirs, is now the centerpiece of this Florida state park. Ralph Middleton Munroe built the Barnacle House in 1891 and it is furnished with some of his original furnishings plus antiques and other items donated by his family. He was a yacht designer, naturalist, seaman, and civic activist whom the US Parks Service describes as “one of Coconut Grove’s most charming and influential pioneers.”
Note, the park is closed Tuesday through Thursday. It is open Friday through Monday from 9-5. Tours are at 10 and 11:30 AM, and again at 1 and 2:30.
Check with the Park about special events. Wednesday nights at 6 PM there is a yoga class. If you are visiting the weekend of January 15, the park is hosting Shakespeare in the Park with a production of Taming of the Shrew. Sunday, January 24, 2010, there is an Old Time Dance with live music and someone teaching traditional American folk dance steps. There seems to be one or two events a month. For more information: http://www.TheBarnacle.org
If you do visit Barnacle House, and we hope you do, please post a comment here and let us know if you, too, felt the multi-faceted genius Ralph Middleton Munroe come alive. That visit alone gave us a feeling of deep connection to Coconut Grove. As you walk around town, you may see historical markers referencing his contributions to other parts of life in Coconut Grove. In fact, I’m transmitting this story to the Salty Southeast while using the free wifi in the public library, a charming historic site itself, surrounded by palm trees and garden and only a short walk across the street from the Dinner Key Marina. It’s on land donated by Ralph Middleton Munroe who started the first library in the area, acquiring and delivering books by boat. It is also the site where Munroe’s first wife is buried. Just next door to the library, is another historic site, the women’s club built in the 1890s, also on land donated by Mr. Munroe.
S/V Lady Jane
Thanks for a great post. I’ve just returned from a 10 day stay aboard our boat “Cloud Nine” at Dinner Key Marina. You’re right. We can see the Miami City Hall from our slip and I never set foot inside the building. I will be sure to visit on my next trip for sure. My husband, Tom is currently in Dinner key and I will pass this site on to him. We loved the Coconut Grove Arts Festival over President’s day weekend.Much to see and do in this charming town
Keep up the good work.
Great post ,good to see the old Monroe house has been preserved. I had a friend that I worked with at Bertram Yacht yard in the mid 60’s that was the care taker of the house when the Monroe where out of town. My wife would Join them on weekends at the house which was a great treat. The gardens and front lawn down to the water were magnificent in the evening.