The Barnacle Historic State Park: Imagine how the “Old Florida” was back in the 1920s

The Barnacle Historic State Park, built in 1891, was home of Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of Coconut Grove’s pioneer. The house is preserved on its original design and architecture and is considered the oldest in the entire Miami-Dade County. Also know as “The Barnacle”, the place really gives people a good idea of what it was back in the “Old Florida”. Walking through the park makes us imagine Miami’s original landscape back in the early days of Coconut Grove.

Ralph Munroe lived in New York and visited Florida for the first time in 1877 while on vacation. He immediately fell in love with South Florida and it’s tropical paradise environment. In 1881 his wife Eva contracted tuberculosis and doctors recommended a change in lifestyle including living in a better climate, far from NY winter. In Munroe’s next trip to Florida he then decided to take his wife with him, but unfortunately the cure failed and she died. Eva was burried in Coconute Grove. Just after this sad moment of his life another tragically event happened. Munroe’s infant daughter contracted influenza and also died in 1882. At that time Munroe was only 31 years old.

Ralph Munroe visited Florida several times after that and finally on 1887 decided to stay and settle on the Bay. In 1886 he purchased a 40 acre bayfront land for $ 400 and also gave one of his boats to complete the payment (also valued for $ 400). He then built a boathouse to live in and later a bungalow. In 1891 he met Miss Jessie Wirth and married again. He had another daughter and son. At the time he worked in many things: wrecker, photographer, author and environmental activist, but his principal passion was to design boats. He died at the age of 82 in Coconut Grove.

Boat designing

In the beginning o 20th century (early days of Coconut Grove), boats were the main form of transportation and yachting was a popular sport. By that time Ralph Munroe was alread famous for his boat design skills and many people comissioned him to design their yachts. He was elected a Commodore at Biscayne Bay Yacht Club in 1887. In his lifetime he drew plans for almost 60 different boats and yacths. One of his boats, named Micco, could be visited and seen at The Barnacle Historic State Park till 1992, when Hurricane Andrew destroyed it completely (there is a replica now).

The Barnacle Historic State Park is not the only attraction in Miami honoring Ralph Munroe. Also the Miami Marine Stadium was built with his name. Few people know, but the entire name of the stadium is Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe Miami Marine Stadium.

Tours for the Barnacle Historic State Park

Tours of the Barnacle House and the Boathouse are given. See the website for special events and programs. Open Friday-Monday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and by reservation Wednesday and Thursday. The park is closed on Tuesdays as well as New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas days. Park admission is $2. Tour Fees: $3 for those age 13 and over and $1 for those ages 6-12.

Throughout the year, The Barnacle Society sponsors numerous events, including moonlight concerts and outdoor films, in an effort to raise funds to support this lovely Historic State Park. If you have any questions regarding The Barnacle Society or if you are interested in volunteering or becoming a member, please contact us. We would love to hear from you. Feel free to share your comments and suggestions with us as well.
He decided to buy a 40 acres bayfront land in Coconut Grove.

he Barnacle Historic State Park is a 5-acre (2.0 ha) Florida State Park in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida at 3485 Main Highway.

Built in 1891, it is the oldest house in its original location in Miami-Dade County. The Barnacle was the home of Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of Coconut Grove’s founders, as well as founder and Commodore of the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club. He was also a leading designer of sailing yachts. The Florida Park Service acquired the remaining 5 acres (20,000 m2) of Munroe’s original 40-acre (160,000 m2) homesite from his descendants in 1973.

The Barnacle Historic State Park is served by the Miami Metrorail at the Douglas Road and the Coconut Grove stations.

Ralph Middleton Munroe first visited South Florida in 1877 while on vacation from New York. On his second trip he brought his wife who suffered from tuberculosis. Unfortunately, the cure failed and she died. Her body is buried in Coconut Grove. He returned several times to the area and in 1887 decided to settle in the Bay.

Ralph Munroe purchased 40 acres (160,000 m2) of bayfront land in 1886 for $400 in addition to one of his sailboats, the Kingfish, valued at an additional $400. His boathouse was built in 1887 and he lived on its upper floor until his main house was completed in 1891. The house, a one-story structure, was raised off the ground on wood pilings. Its central room is octagonal in shape and Munroe called his home “The Barnacle,” presumably because it resembled one. It remained a bungalow until 1908 when more space was needed for his growing family. The whole structure was lifted and a new first story inserted below. In 1912 a library was built adjacent to the house. The Barnacle survived the disastrous 1926 hurricane and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 with only minimal damage.

As a seaman, civic activist, naturalist, and photographer, Commodore Munroe was a man who cherished the natural world around him. A walk into the park passes through a tropical hardwood hammock. It is representative of the original landscape within the city of Miami. Today, it is one of the last remnants of the once vast Miami Hammock.

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