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It's a long story -- hardly worth going into here -- but after this place was declared a Brownfield Site, we abandoned it for the NEW! IMPROVED!! Not Now Silly Newsroom.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part Three ► Who Controls What On Charles Avenue

East side of the E.W.F. Stirrup House, still undergoing Demolition by
Neglect with the Garden Grove Condominiums in the background.
Some good news came in over the transom this past week. Miami's Historical and Environmental Preservation Board [HEP cats?] voted unanimously to make Charles Avenue an Historic Designation Roadway, whatever the heck that means. This seems to have no practical effect: no money will be spent and no signs will be placed. However, signs need not be placed because there are several informational signs along Charles Avenue. In an upcoming chapter of Uncovering Coconut Grove I will talk about all the Charles Avenue signage.

Meanwhile, how will this Historic Designation Roadway thangie affect my campaign to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House? It's hard to tell. The designation did not appear to mention the Stirrup House, nor did it delve into the survival of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, or the Mariah Brown house, said to be the first home owned by a Black person in south Florida. These three structures are empty and have been empty for years now.

Yet, as my initial research began informing me, the E.W.F. Stirrup House dates back to a unique time and place in 'Merka. In later chapters of this series I will explore what makes Charles Avenue, and the Black enclave that grew up around it, totally unique to all other Black neighbourhoods in 'Merka.

The historical marker that started it all.
The vacant lot is behind this sign.
I first started my campaign to save the Stirrup House several years ago when I just happened to run across the historical marker on Charles Avenue. The marker had seen better days, but there was just enough on the sign to pique my interest. However, it was when I looked across the street did I see the gem of the neighbourhood, the historical Stirrup House, built in 1898. Buildings of any age are a rarity in south Florida, a state that appears to have no sense of history, no sense of of place, and no indigenous architectural style. Florida buildings present a pastiche of other architectural elements, but nothing Floridian.

On that first visit to Charles Avenue I noticed an empty lot immediately across the street from the Stirrup House. Later that day, while using Google Street View, I was surprised to see a house on what had been a vacant lot when I was there. That became the first mystery to solve: Where did that house go, and why?

That mystery was solved pretty quickly. While there had been a house on that lot as late as 2007, it was knocked down to create a marshaling yard for equipment and materials needed to build the Grove Gardens Condominium complex.

I started keeping a paper map on which I added what I had learned interviewing neighbours up and down Charles Avenue. There were many crossoffs on that map. Some of the early information turned out to be bogus, but some of the rumours have actually led to hard information, or additional areas of solid inquiry. Eventually I had to throw out that paper map and have created a new, 21st century, electronic version of the Charles Avenue map as I delve into who controls what on the east end of Charles Avenue.

Like any good reporter, I will continue to follow the money. Right now all the threads I am pulling seems to lead to the same place: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, of all places.

Meanwhile, here's my current map of the area on which I have added information on who controls what on Charles Avenue. Click around on the map. Each shaded area and marker has a small explination of what I have been able to confirm so far, along with some of the rumours.


This map will change as I learn new information.