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The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Women’s Club of Coconut Grove: A look into its past and present

By Giorgia Cattaneo
Truck Editor

Nuzzled in the heart of Coconut Grove, next to Coco Walk and the Coconut Grove Public Library, is the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove. 

The Women’s Club of Coconut Grove at night during a wedding was surrounded by thick native Florida trees lined with fairy lights. (Photo taken by Giorgia Cattaneo)

It was 1891 when Flora McFarlene and five other pioneers formed the Housekeeper’s Club.  It later changed its name to The Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove in 1957. The Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove is the oldest federated women’s club in Florida. It is one of the most essential civic organizations in Coconut Grove history, being linked with the early settlement of the town. The club’s significance lies in its association with Coconut Grove’s early development and role as the community’s social and cultural center.  

Flora McFarlane was a pioneer settler and school teacher. Being aware of the isolation and loneliness felt amongst the pioneer women of her small community, Flora began inviting the women of her community to take part in weekly gatherings. Her goal was to provide social interaction among the women of their small colony. Through their work together, the Club continues to work for the amelioration of the community, leading with their motto, “lend a hand.”

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To this day, the members of the club continue to reflect the dedication of pioneer women who sought to enrich the early residents’ cultural, social, and educational development.  Its original clubhouse was erected in 1917 on land donated by Ralph Munroe, whose wife, Eva Munroe’s, grave is adjacent to. The members have provided service and support to the community and support for 129 years, starting from its first major project raising funds in 1894 for a Sunday School chapel, which is now the Plymouth Congregational Church. The Club was the cultural site of early Coconut Grove, conducting theatrical performances, literary readings, live music, and social gatherings. Members were also engaged in Everglades conservation, saving Paradise Key, as well as providing aid for many local and national organizations. 

The club did not move into its current headquarters in Coconut Grove until 1921 when it was then designed by architect Walter de Garmo. De Garmo was a prominent architect in Miami who is also known for designing the Coral Gables Bank, Post Office, and the First Miami City Hall in 1907. He is also known for his residential work, usually in luxury mansions designed in  Mediterranean Revival and Mission Revival styles.

The building is surrounded by lush South Florida greenery with strings of fairy lights hanging from the palm and oak trees. Its main entrance is located in the center bay of its front face with double stairs. It is a one-story structure with five bays across its front exterior and topped with a curvilinear gable roof, fully embellished with a finial and scrolls. Its central portion is covered with smooth stucco, while its main notable feature is its oolitic limestone porch, topped with a low parapet flat roof. It is 12 feet wide and has a series of recessed, semi-circular arches extending around the building. The openings were originally screened but were replaced in 1957 by jalousie windows. The building’s wide porch is its focal point; its high ceilings and spacious arched openings extend around three sides of the building. 

The Club’s wraparound porch, jalousie windows, and oolitic limestone covered exterior surrounded by its native Floridian palm trees and shrubbery.(Photo courtesy of: taken by Michelle Hanna)

The building itself holds importance for its adaptation to the South Florida environment, where it was constructed with materials such as concrete, stone, stucco, and oolitic limestone. The oolitic limestone is a coral rock and a native South Florida building material, tying its origins even closer to it’s Floridian environment. The club is well adapted to the South Florida climate from the use of high ceilings, arched openings, and a wide wraparound porch. Even the wide porch structure helps circulate the bay’s cool breeze, which is essential in the usual hot Florida weather.  

Even today, the Women’s Club continues to enrich the community through its many service activities, dedication to promoting education, historic preservation, public welfare, civic improvement, and the advancement of the arts and culture. There are multiple committees within the club, each dedicated to important issues such as, but not limited to, Human Trafficking & Awareness Prevention, Plastics Free Initiative Coalition, COVID-19 Volunteer Activities, and the Young Artists Gallery (which promotes art education through art scholarships to public high school students). As of December 2020, they offer a Creative Minds Mentorship Program, a free online mentorship to Miami High School Students in creative arts and education. 

Interior of the Club decorated in full for a wedding, visible on its right is the stone fireplace, above is the pine wood ceiling and the original pinewood floors. (Photo courtesy of: taken by Michelle Hanna)

The building is now managed by Coconut Grove Events, where the club has now become a popular wedding venue. This is most likely due to its rustic charm and elegant, intimate feel found in the original pine wood floors, stone fireplace, and 15-foot open beam pine wood ceiling. 

Even after 129 years, The Women’s Club Of Coconut Grove continues to hold its notable place in society for all the beauty and good its given and continues to provide. 

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Women’s Club of Coconut Grove: A look into its past and present