Breeze into Summer at The Barnacle in Coconut Grove

The Barnacle

The scorching summer heat is fast approaching South Florida. What better way to cool off than sitting on a rocking chair overlooking Biscayne Bay? The open-air verandas at The Barnacle provide comfortable cooling shade while visitors take in the ocean breeze on the hottest of days.

MunroeRalph Middleton Munroe. Photo Courtesy: Florida State Parks 

The Barnacle is Ralph Middleton Munroe’s picturesque shoreside 40-acre estate, which is one of the few remaining houses still located on its original site in Miami-Dade County. Munroe (1851-1933) grew up in New York and first visited South Florida in 1877. An avid yachtsman, boat designer, and businessman, Munroe returned to the area with his ill wife Eva in 1881. Despite the climate she was unable to overcome tuberculosis and died a year later. Munroe buried his wife in South Florida and helped open a successful hotel with Charles Peacock, the Bay View Villa (later known as the Peacock Inn), in 1882 on Biscayne Bay. The hotel was demolished in 1926 and the site would later become present-day Peacock Park.

Peacock InnThe Peacock Inn. Photo Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

In 1886, Munroe purchased 40 acres of undeveloped, hardwood hammock land for $400. He built a two-story boathouse in 1887, where he lived until the completion of The Barnacle in 1891. The boathouse, which was destroyed and later rebuilt after the 1926 Hurricane, was Munroe’s workshop and was the initial meeting place for the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club. Munroe would serve as the Club’s Commodore for 22 years. Originally built as a one-story structure on raised ground on wood pilings for ventilation, the house was renovated in 1908 to include a second floor for more space. The iconic central room shaped as an octagon was physically lifted to add a new floor beneath it. The vernacular design merged Bungalow style with Florida Cracker Architecture. The pyramidal sloped-shape rooftop with the chimney-like effect was also used for ventilation. 

Barnacle Prior 1908The Barnacle Prior to 1908. Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress

Barnacle

Barnacle Estate MapPhoto Courtesy: Florida State Parks 

Barnacle 2nd Floor and AtticCupola Ventilation System. Photo Courtesy: Florida State Parks 

Barnacle UpstairsAttic Stair Hall. Photo Courtesy: Florida State Parks 

Munroe would remarry in 1895 to Miss Jessie Wirth, have two children, continue designing boats and photographing Coconut Grove culture until his death at age 82. His family lived on the property until the Florida Park Service acquired the estate in 1973. Today, The Barnacle is a popular location for tours, events, and parties including the “Barnacle under Moonlight” concerts and Yoga by the Sea.   

-Marvin Aguilar

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