Alexandra Fiedler: Coconut Grove 2021

Photos by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Photo by Monica Schmitz//CC by 4.0

Biography

Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. After moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra is fascinated by the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the place she now calls home. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about what makes Miami an especially unique and vibrant cultural setting.

Geography

Coconut Grove has been described as a “small town with a big city vibe,” an aptly fitting name when considering this uniquely vibrant neighborhood. It has an area of just over 5 square miles, with Biscayne Bay directly to its east. US 1 to the north, North Prospect Drive to the south, and LeJeune Road to the west define the other boundaries of the neighborhood. To the south of Brickell and east of Coral Gables, Coconut Grove has a special identity all of its own. Boasting both urban shops and cozy residential areas, Coconut Grove has the perfect mixture of bustle and relaxation. Also known as “The Grove,” this neighborhood consists of many parks, beach views, walkable paths, and pleasant scenery. CocoWalk is an upscale outdoor shopping center that hosts many vibrant dining locations and exciting shops. People can enjoy the natural beauty of South Florida here while also relishing in the more urbanized amenities of the area. The natural appeal of Coconut Grove is clear, flourished with tropical species such as banyan trees, palms, and live oaks. Its charming location near the ocean has made its waterfront properties extremely desirable, and there are even multiple yacht clubs in the Grove. All in all, one can find both the natural stunning tropical scenery and the more urbanized lively shops, restaurants, and other special commodities here in Coconut Grove. 

History

Being recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in the city of Miami means that Coconut Grove has a lengthy and fascinating history. In the mid-1800s, many people from all over were attracted to South Florida because of the Homestead Act, which would give someone 160 acres of land if they lived on it, took care of it, and grew crops for 5 years. The first known permanent residents of Coconut Grove are Edmund and Anne Beasley. Edmund was a sailor from Connecticut, while his wife Anne was a Bahamian immigrant. After being widowed, Anne Beasley rented a portion of her land to a man named Horace Porter, who then created a U.S. Post Office, which he named ‘Cocoanut Grove’ in 1873. Others began to move to the area in the 1870s, such as the Pent family from the Bahamas and the Peacocks from Great Britain. Jack Peacock eventually opened up the neighborhood’s first guest house in 1882 which was referred to as the Bay View Inn. Many of the original hotel staff were black Bahamians who had settled in Key West throughout the earlier decades. They heard of a hotel that needed help with everything, from cooking to cleaning to carpentry, and many relocated in order to hopefully find employment. Mariah Brown is recognized as Coconut Grove’s first black Bahamian resident, moving to the area in 1889. Although it had originally been forgotten, Porter’s post office was reopened and the official Coconut Grove name was derived from his original idea, although the spelling was slightly modified. Because of its picturesque location near the water and surrounded by vibrant vegetation, the Bay View Inn attracted all sorts of creative individuals as visitors, including writers, artists, environmentalists, titled counts, and other eccentric characters. With the influx of new visitors, the young inn called for expansion, was renamed the Peacock Inn, and therefore required more staffers. A black Bahamian named Ebenezer Stirrup had been accumulating land in the area for years in exchange for work. He then built and sold/rented over 100 homes to Bahamian immigrants–some of which are still standing today in the west part of the neighborhood. These ‘shotgun style’ homes were constructed in a long and narrow form with two rooms and two doors, much like the homes located throughout the Bahamas and parts of the Caribbean. Because of his efforts, in the early 1900s Coconut Grove had a booming Bahamian community located near the Peacock Inn. 

Unfortunately, the annexation of Coconut Grove by the city of Miami was detrimental to the quality of life for the marginalized groups in the community. Although in the early 1900s, Coconut Grove had a civil relationship between blacks and whites–people even attended the same worship services, west Coconut Grove was “increasingly marginalized and choked of resources”(Nebhrajani) for an extended period of time. The west part of the Grove strived to preserve its Caribbean identity but gentrification and marginalization have led to a more fractured and worn down sense of spirit. Fortunately, in later years Coconut Grove has celebrated its identity and roots in the Bahamas through the Junkanoo Festival and other celebrations of Bahamian influence in the neighborhood today. 

Demographics

Much like many other neighborhoods throughout Miami, Coconut Grove is a diverse location, with residents of all races, ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses. The current population statistic is 26,815 people although this number often fluctuates over time and across different resources. Data collected from 2019 delineates a population of 36.8% Hispanics and Latinos, 29.9% Blacks, 26.3% Whites, with Asians, Indigenous people, and other races making up the rest of the population. A large Hispanic population is nothing out of the ordinary for Miami, but Coconut Grove boasts a particularly large Bahamian population. Coconut Grove is regarded as a wealthier neighborhood, with a median household income of $88,824. For reference, Miami as a city only has a median income of $42,966, meaning many of the residents in Coconut Grove earn much more than people in other areas of the city. Although when excluding those who make over $200,000, a majority of residents are earning between $40,000 and $125,000, indicating that many people actually make much less than a median statistic would show. As for education levels, 63% of the population has received a bachelor’s, master’s, or a higher degree, making it a very well-educated neighborhood. The median age for male residents is 37.9 years, while for females it is 43.4. These numbers illustrate that a slightly older crowd calls Coconut Grove home, perhaps because it takes time to accumulate the money necessary to afford a place of residence in the neighborhood, which is supported by the fact that 58% of the neighborhood’s population is above the age of 35. Another interesting statistic is that only 5.6% of the neighborhood’s population does not speak English well or at all, which is much lower than other parts of Miami as a whole, even though the percentage of foreign born residents in Coconut Grove is 35.1%. As a whole, many different kinds of people call Coconut Grove home, regardless of their education, age, race, or socioeconomic status. 

Interview

While in Coconut Grove, I had the pleasure of speaking to Maj. Kevin John Simon who works at the Christian Science store in Coconut Grove. I was just exploring around the Grove when he invited me inside. Major(Retired) Simon was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, even showing me an old map of Coconut Grove from 1896! The map was spelled ‘Cocoanut Grove’ which has not been used since the late 1800s. Mr. Simon was excited to tell me about Coconut Grove and even gave me a book titled, “The Pictures of America: Coconut Grove.” The book was an excellent resource, as was Mr. Simon. I asked him about the Grove in general and he shared that he thinks it is an excellent neighborhood with a rich history. Mr. Simon told me how the building we were standing in was over several decades old and was a building originally owned by the Munroe family. He informed me about how the Munroe family owned a vast amount of buildings and land, most of which they sold over time.

It was a wonderful experience getting to talk to Mr. Simon and getting to hear about more of the in-depth history of Coconut Grove. The map amazed me because it is entirely unrecognizable from the Coconut Grove that exists today. Furthermore, I am so thankful he shared the book and all his knowledge with me, and I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Mr. Simon. 

Landmarks

Coconut Grove is an especially interesting area when one considers the vast amount of history that has taken place here. There are multiple historic buildings throughout the neighborhood, each with a uniquely fascinating story that can still be learned today.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya was the home of James Deering, an eccentric millionaire who wanted a uniquely captivating home which he had built between 1914 and 1922. His home has since become a museum thanks to the impressive collections of art James amassed from around the world from many different cultures. Featuring Italian Renaissance inspired gardens, the surrounding estate has been marveled at since its creation. The architecture of the actual home has great Italian influence, and its grandeur has been recognized throughout the ages. Paul Chalfin was the primary designer, and working with Deering, created one of the most intricate, beautiful, and impressive estates of all time. 

Coconut Grove Library

Part of the Miami-Dade public library system, the Coconut Grove Branch has an extensive history. First opening in 1895, the branch eventually moved to its current location in 1901. The Munroe family was crucial in the creation and development of the library, with Kirk Munroe donating the land for both of the libraries locations and Mary Barr Munroe starting the ‘Pine Needles Club,’ a place for young girls to gather. The library hosts over 36,000 items in its collection and its picturesque location provides a lovely opportunity for people to learn and relax in its spacious and comfortable environment.

Barnacle Historic State Park

Becoming a state park in 1973, Barnacle Park was put on the National Register of Historic Places mainly because it is home to the oldest house in Miami-Dade county that is still standing in its original location. The Barnacle Home was built in 1891 by Ralph Munroe, located near the beautiful waters of Biscayne Bay. Munroe also created a boathouse and started a yacht club on his land. The 40 acres of bay-front land were originally purchased for $400 and belonged to the Munroe family until Mary Munroe sold it to the state of Florida instead of developers in the early 1970s, where it achieved its state park title and historic registry status. 

Green Spaces

Coconut Grove features a large amount of green spaces and natural life. Even the most urban parts feature trees, shrubs, vines, and other plants. Many storefronts have incorporated vegetation, such as having vines crawling up the sides of buildings and wrapping around pillars or staircases. There is a multitude of parks, some preserving natural ecosystems such as hardwood hammocks. All throughout the neighborhood, there are natural spaces for the public to enjoy. 

Peacock Park

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

This park features 9 acres of land, filled with grass, trees, and fun and engaging opportunities for people. The park has a basketball court, a softball field, soccer fields, a playground, and a multipurpose field. It even features a boardwalk that overlooks Biscayne Bay. Located right by the water, the location makes this park easily accessible and worth the visit. It is actually located where the Peacock Inn used to stand, and the name is a nod to the Peacocks who first opened the inn. 

Billy Rolle Park

This mini park offers many of the great features of the other green spaces but on a smaller scale. In this park, one can find picnic tables, bathrooms, a barbecue, chess tables, and dominoes. It is located near a more residential area, offering local residents a great place to go and enjoy the outdoors without the bustle often associated with the more prominent parks. 

Regatta Park

Located directly on the bay, Regatta Park is next to both boat clubs and a marina. Some of the amenities featured here are a boat ramp, bike racks, water rentals, picnic tables, and of course the waterfront view. People can come here to enjoy the view of the water or the sight of sailboats on the sea. It is a beautiful green space filled with sprawling grass and shady trees. One can stroll along the pier or simply sit and appreciate the views.

Transportation

Trolley

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Coconut Grove has a trolley available in the neighborhood that is free of charge and anyone may use. The trolley runs from 6:30 am until 11:00 pm most days of the week. It has multiple stops throughout the Grove, ensuring people can hop on and off all over the neighborhood. People can use this fun, efficient, and vintage mode of transportation to go around the charming streets of Coconut Grove.

Citi Bike

These trendy new bikes are open for public use and can be located through the corresponding app through mobile devices. People can rent bikes and travel around the neighborhood in an energy-efficient manner while taking in all the endearing sights Coconut Grove has to offer.

Miami Metrorail

The metrorail has a station within Coconut Grove and can be accessed with a metrocard, which is an inexpensive cost. The Orange Line runs through Coconut Grove and the stop is near the neighborhood’s trendiest and busiest center. The metrorail is a great cheap alternative to paying for gas and parking. 

Metrobus

In addition to the many other forms of public transportation available in Coconut Grove, one can also access the area by the bus. There are multiple stops in the neighborhood, like at the Golden Glades Terminal, all along SW 27 street, and Bayshore Drive.

Car

There is an abundance of public parking lots and garages throughout the Grove, meaning one does not have to rely on public transportation to get in or around the neighborhood. Parking rates vary, and many are often full because of the high amount of traffic that Coconut Grove brings in. Regardless, driving around and finding a parking spot is certainly a possibility when looking to explore the neighborhood. 

Walking

Coconut Grove is designed to be enjoyed by pedestrians. Multiple streets are closed off to motor vehicles, meaning walking is truly the only way to access many of the best spots this neighborhood has to offer. Coconut Grove is filled with businesses that are best enjoyed by pedestrians. Restaurants put their menus out front so people walking by can enjoy them. Other places play music, or string up lights. The atmosphere is truly best enjoyed by foot.

Food

Coconut Grove is home to a multitude of different restaurants, cafes, and cuisines. There are trendy brunch spots, sophisticated dinner venues, mom-and-pop style delis, and ice cream shops. One can find American, Italian, Mexican, Cuban, Asian, and many more different types of food all within close relation to each other.

Taco Way

This authentic Mexican restaurant is a great place to go when one wishes to switch it up  a little bit. Contrary to the other Hispanic influences in Miami, this restaurant features exclusively Mexican cuisine, decor, and music. The bar has plenty of Mexican inspired drinks, while the menu features Mexican specialties like a handmade paleta lemonade drink. The food is phenomenal, featuring items such as quesadillas, tamales, enchiladas, salsas, Mexican rice, and much more. One can stop in for a great lunch or dinner right on Main street. They offer outdoor seating, making it a great place to eat while watching all the fun action happening throughout the street. 

GreenStreet Cafe

This cafe and lounge has been thriving on Main Street in Coconut Grove for over 30 years. A classic option in the Grove, this spot offers both indoor and outdoor dining. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the GreenStreet Cafe strives to provide a welcoming atmosphere, great food, and even better drinks. They bring in a wide range of patrons, from local politicians to tourists and of course, locals. The menu offers a wide selection of items, from appetizers to sandwiches to salads to fish and pasta. They even offer multiple desserts as well as different cuts of meat like filet mignon. Everyone should take a chance to experience this Coconut Grove classic. 

The Last Carrot

 This family-owned restaurant is a wonderful option for a healthy snack, lunch, or even dinner. It has a quaint location, being tucked into the corner of a small center. Featuring a menu of healthy options such as sandwiches, salads, and wraps, The Last Carrot is a delicious and healthy option for those looking to grab something quick yet satisfying. 

Businesses

Coconut Grove has a great mixture of small businesses, trendy places to eat, fashionable boutiques, and more. There is a wide range of unique businesses that make this neighborhood an exceptionally interesting place to explore. One can find clothes, books, trinkets, home goods, and so much more.

Books & Books

This bookstore is located near the center of the Grove and is a lovely business to check out. Having two stories, a tiny cafe, and shelves reaching the ceiling, the cozy atmosphere of the bookstore makes it a great visit. They have a sizable collection of books, from children’s to romance to horror. They even have a special section of staff favorites, giving people an easy place to start if they are not too sure what they are looking for. 

Celestial Treasures

Photos by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

This quaint shop is tucked in among other shoppettes and cafes. It is a store focused on spirituality and spiritual growth. The store has a plethora of crystals, rocks, tarot cards, incense, decor, and much more. I purchased a bracelet and the lady working cleansed it with sage before giving it to me. The quiet storefront blends into the Grove perfectly and the wide range of available items in store makes it a great place to check out and experience. 

This n That

A thrift store located in the main city center of Coconut Grove, This n That offers a range of items. From collectors hats that cost $300 to old books that cost $1, the thirst shop has a very cozy feel where people can find all sorts of goods. Decor, clothing, accessories, home goods, books, and much more can be found here. Friendly service and great prices make this shop totally worth the stop. 

Summary

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Coconut Grove is a vibrant and beautiful community for so many reasons. They have truly figured out how to attract tourists, keep things interesting, while still engaging the local residents. The neighborhood is extremely pedestrian friendly, making the Grove a perfect place to explore with family, friends, or even alone. They have such a unique selection of restaurants and businesses meaning anyone can find something that they will enjoy. A wide variety in cuisines and price points help ensure that this area remains accessible to people who cannot afford the steeply high prices often associated with Miami. Beyond the urban life, Coconut Grove is simply just a beautiful neighborhood. With trees, bushes, grass, and other naturalistic elements found throughout the community make it exceptionally beautiful and a joy to traverse. There are so many different things for people to enjoy, both urban and natural. 

Unfortunately, similar to many other neighborhoods as trendy and popular as Coconut Grove, the neighborhood has faced gentrification and modernization that make it less accessible to poorer and less fortunate people. Specifically the black Bahamians that are credited with being some of the first people to inhabit the area are often pushed to the side and reside in more run-down places in the neighborhood, while the city center becomes increasingly popular with rich tourists. The prices of food, parking, shopping, and just about everything else in the neighborhood are getting more expensive, taking the neighborhood away from the less wealthy natives and making it a new trendy haven for the increasingly wealthy population that wants to live near downtown and be by the water. It was a shame to see the traditional shotgun style houses around the edges of the neighborhood and seeing locals use the more unkempt and less popular recreational areas while the center of Coconut Grove continues to become more lavish and extravagant. My hope for the future is that more concern and care is shown to the more marginalized populations of the area instead of just catering towards what will generate more revenue.  

Works Cited

Ava Moore Parks. “Visit 9 Historic Sites In Coconut Grove.” The Official Travel and Tourism Site of Greater Miami & Miami Beach, https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/history-and-heritage/visit-9-historic-sites-in-coconut-grove

“Billy Rolle Mini Park.” The City of Miami, https://www.miamigov.com/Parks-Public-Places/Parks-Directory/Billy-Rolle-Mini-Park

“Coconut Grove neighborhood in Miami, Florida, detailed profile.” City-Data, https://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/Coconut-Grove-Miami-FL.html

“Fun and Funky Coconut Grove.” The Official Travel and Tourism Site of Greater Miami & Miami Beach, https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/neighborhoods/coconut-grove

“History.” Florida State Parks, https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/barnacle-historic-state-park/history

Jodi Mailander Farrell. “3 ‘Conch Towns’ Where Florida’s Bahamian Culture Thrives.” Visit Florida, https://www.visitflorida.com/travel-ideas/articles/bahamian-american-culture-in-florida-3-conch-towns-to-see/

Paul S. George. “Early Stirrings in Coconut Grove.” Brickell Avenue Neighborhood Book, https://miami-history.com/early-stirrings-in-coconut-grove/

“Peacock Park.” The Official Travel and Tourism Site of Greater Miami & Miami Beach, https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/thing-to-do/parks-recreation/peacock-park/2980

“Rail, Mover, Bus Rider Alerts.” Miami Dade Transit, https://www.miamidade.gov/transit/mobile/

Roshan Nebhrajani. “The early Bahamian history of Coconut Grove.” The New Tropic, https://thenewtropic.com/bahamians-coconut-grove/

“Regatta Park.” The City of Miami, https://www.miamigov.com/Parks-Public-Places/Parks-Directory/Regatta-Park

“Regatta Park.” The Official Travel and Tourism Site of Greater Miami & Miami Beach, https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/thing-to-do/parks-recreation/regatta-park/23899

“Welcome To GreenStreet.” GreenStreet Cafe, https://www.greenstreetcafe.net/

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