I stood on the sidewalk in the busy Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, bustling already even in the morning. Surrounding me stood restaurants, shops and beautiful homes, but the Barnacle Historic State park was an oasis of thick green trees.
Walking down a shaded road, I stopped in at the visitor center and gift shop to chat with Erin Berry, a park ranger, before exploring the five-acre park.
“It [is] the oldest house in Miami-Dade county still in its original foundation, and this was built by Commodore Ralph Munroe,” she begins. “The Commodore was born up in Staten
Island, New York, in 1851, and he would later come down to visit in 1877...He was almost able to meet all the people [who] lived in the county at the time, in one day. So things are very different,” she continued.
Commodore Munroe returned to New York, but he eventually built the Barnacle in the 1880’s. It was a family owned home until 1973, when the Commodore’s daughter-in-law was the last person living here. The property was sold to the state of Florida “in order to keep this beautiful piece of the Miami-Dade history alive,” Berry explains.
The house is beautiful (and open for tours), but I was most fascinated by the grounds. A long, wide grass lawn stretched from the front porch all the way down to the water. Benches and comfy chairs sat beneath the shade of tall trees, beckoning locals and visitors to take a rest, read a book, contemplate life. Tall palm trees swayed in the morning breeze, reminding us all we were, in fact, in South Florida.
From the shoreline, I leaned on a wooden fence to take in the coastal view. Mangroves grew on either side of a small beach, and in the open water sailboats dotted the horizon. Perhaps the vista was similar when Munroe lived here; in fact, two replicas of his sailboats, the Egret and the Flying Proa, can be found at the park.
Near the shore I walked beneath the roof of the event space, complete with a hard floor and nearby picnic tables. Berry’s favorite aspect of the park is the local events that take place here throughout the year, including weddings: “I love seeing all the people coming in and discovering this new place in the middle of Coconut Grove.”
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About Erika: Erika Z. is a writer, birder and photographer living and working along the Emerald Coast of Florida. Her love of the outdoors and sense of adventure leads her to explore Florida’s state parks, state trails and historic sites in her free time.