Above: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami - ROBIN HILL

Historic House Museums of Greater Miami

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami - Robin Hill

Besides fashionable shops, glitzy nightlife and stylish restaurants, there is history to discover in Miami. Early settlers like Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell, whose namesake neighborhood is downtown, arrived in the late 1800s, with Northerners like Ralph Middleton Munroe, James Deering and George E. Merrick not far behind. Seeking better health or a new start, they ventured to this fledgling paradise and became cornerstones of the community. The following three historical homes allow visitors a peek into the past to see what living in “Old Florida” was like.

The Barnacle

The Barnacle
One of the bedrooms in The Barnacle - Andrew Harper editor

On a rainy day, we took a break from eating and shopping in Coconut Grove to visit Barnacle Historic State Park, tucked on 9 bayfront acres off Main Highway, near the center of town. Down a small path cut through the lush tropical hardwood forest, we found one of the oldest homes in Miami-Dade County, built in 1891 by Ralph Middleton Munroe, a Staten Island transplant who lived off the land and led a storied life here. Using his skills as a yacht-designer, along with timbers from old shipwrecks, he constructed his one-story home and nicknamed it “the Barnacle.” Later, to accommodate his growing family while retaining the original octagonal layout, he jacked up the building and added a floor underneath. Despite several destructive hurricanes, this unique structure stands where it was built, overlooking a lawn rolling out to Biscayne Bay. From Friday to Wednesday, visitors are welcome to tour the interior, which holds many Munroe-family heirlooms, and the boathouse, which contains replicas of two Munroe-built sailboats. The state park grounds are a popular spot for picnics, and they host concerts, movies, yoga classes and the annual Cars & Cigars Father’s Day celebration.

Barnacle Historic State Park
3485 Main Highway, Coconut Grove. Tel. (305) 442-6866

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Above: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami - ROBIN HILL

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