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Old Barnacle House/Coconut Grove

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Took a ride to Coconut Grove yesterday to visit The Old Barnacle House. I recently read the book "The Commodore's Story" about Ralph Monroe who was a Coconut Grove pioneer. The book gives you a glimpse of what life was like in early Miami.

Munroe preserved the forest on his land, cutting out only a winding buggy trail through the hammock — barely wide enough for one vehicle. As a result, the property contains many large, old trees.

This is Ralph's boathouse. He lived upstairs while his house was being built.

This boathouse was built using wood from a shipwreck of the ship "Ingrid" as you can see by the name on the sign over the windows.

Built in 1891, the Barnacle offers a glimpse of frontier life during the Era of the Bay, when all travel to and from Miami was by sea.

Ralph was born in 1851 and died in 1933. As a young man he would develop a love of boating and the sea. Ralph spent his childhood in New York City at a time when most of Manhattan was still wooded--still a rural island where you could retrieve as many crabs, lobsters, and shrimp as you would like from the surrounding waters. His story continues as he becomes a young man and develops a love for sailing and sailing ships. Then he marries a woman named Eva who becomes ill and the doctors tell them to move to a warmer climate. So with their two children they travel to the remote and exotic wilderness--to the Biscayne Bay area of South Florida. Here he meets a colorful cast of characters who are just beginning to settle what will become Coconut Grove and Miami.

For the original 40 acres he paid $400 in cash in addition to one of his yachts, the Kingfish, which he valued at an additional $400. He was a photographer and a yacht builder and had many friends. He founded the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club in 1887 and was the club's first Commodore, a position he held for twenty-two years. I included a picture of the map of Coconut Grove from 1896 that was hanging in his living room. You can see that there were less than 30 families living there at that time.

His wife did not survive. She died in 1881. You can see her grave outside the Coconut Grove Library, in the middle of town, where she was buried back then.

The house was a one-story bungalow that Munroe named the "Barnacle. It was constructed partly from salvaged ship timber. Some ten years later, when more space was needed at the Barnacle, the original structure was lifted and a new first floor inserted below. The Barnacle still stands in Coconut Grove today -- the oldest home that has remained in its original location in Dade County.

The inside of the house was amazing. Everything was built using Dade County Pine which lasts forever.

At one time, after a storm, the bottom floor flooded so they drilled holes in the floor to let the water out. The holes still remain in the floors.

All in all, it was a lovely day in Coconut Grove!!


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