Built in 1899 by Reverend Solomon Merrick, this residence, which served as the home base for Merrick’s 3000-acre grapefruit plantation, grew from a modest frame house to one encased in coral rock. Solomon’s wife Althea planted oaks, gumbo limbos, and rubber trees throughout her vegetable and cut flower gardens and lined the keystone walkways with low coral walls, conch shells, and crepe myrtles. In 1921 the plantation was transformed into a planned community by Solomon’s son George who named his subdivision “Coral Gables” for the oolitic limestone pillars that ornamented his childhood home, preserved on a half-acre lot. At this time, Althea added a grotto, a bamboo grove, and a fish pond planted with water lilies and irises.
Following the collapse of the land boom, the house became a boarding house through the 1940s. George’s sister Ethel continued to add plantings and cared for the gardens until she passed away in 1961. At this time the property was purchased by W.L. Philbrick who funded the Merrick Manor Foundation. In 1976 the City of Coral Gables acquired the house and gardens and encouraged the Coral Gables Garden Club to undertake its restoration. Aided by historic photographs and personal interviews, the garden club worked with landscape architect Jonathon Seymour to restore the garden. Flowering and fruit trees native to Florida’s high hammock were rejuvenated or replaced, the pond was restored, and a replica sundial was set in the cut flower garden. The house, restored to its 1920s appearance, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.