France 2020 Ineffable Miami: Miracle Mile by Kathleen Gomez

Biography

Photo by Nick Gomez (CC by 4.0)

My name is Kathleen Gomez and I am a senior in the Honors College at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. My goal is to one day have a career that combines my passions for baking and literature.

Geography

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)
Map retrieved from Google Maps

In Downtown Coral Gables, you’ll find a 0.503-mile-long stretch of Coral Way between LeJeune Road and Douglas Road known as Miracle Mile. A one mile long walk up and down a street lined with unique stores and restaurants, Miracle Mile has come to be regarded as  “one of South Florida’s most sought-after shopping destinations.”

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

History

Miracle Mile was designed by George Merrick, whose namesake mall can be found right around the corner. Merrick boasted that “every business in Coral Gables was less than a two-block walk,” accomplishing his vision of an area that had everything a resident could need right at their fingertips. The placard on Merrick’s statue, standing proudly in front on City Hall looking out onto the Mile, has a quote that reads: “I have given my life to the development of our city and to the working out of an ideal.” Driving down the sunny stretch, almost people-less amidst quarantine, thinking about how I’ve missed walking down the sidewalk after a nice dinner out and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to visit the area again, it certainly feels like Merrick accomplished that ideal.

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

The 1940’s saw a trend for making outdoor shopping malls and so “after declines during the Great Depression and World War II,” efforts were made to rebrand the area in order to market it as a “high-end shopping destination.”

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

A placard towards the start of the walk down the Mile reads that “immediately after World War II, the ‘Father of Miracle Mile’ George K. Zain and his wife City Commissioner Rebyl Zain conceived, developed and implemented the concept of a Miracle Mile” for this section of Coral Way, and that the section was officially named Miracle Mile in 1955.  

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Albert H. Friedman, the owner of a high-end women’s clothing business, moved to South Florida and opened one of eight stores on Coral Way when Miracle Mile was “just a big, wide curbless street.” In 1954, Friedman met with J. Baldi of J. Baldi’s Salon, Sam Weissel of Sam’s Taxi Co. and Carroll Seghers, proprietor of Carroll’s Jewelers, in an attempt to acquire new business and they ended up forming the Miracle Mile Merchants Association. For his part in building up the area, Friedman was declared Mr. Miracle Mile in 1980.

Demographics

Miracle Mile is a boulevard dedicated to restaurants, boutiques, and galleries with more than 150 property owners and over 350 merchants including restaurants. Although no one lives on the Mile itself, it is known as “an elegant and sophisticated destination,” and is “Miami’s charming gem that locals like to keep secret and visitors fall in love with when they find it.”

Stefani Subil was born May 31, 1996, in Miami, FL and has lived in Village Green for pretty much her whole life but one place she likes to frequent and do some photography work is the Colonnade on Miracle Mile. 

Stefani’s thoughts on Miracle Mile:

Kathleen: Why do you like Miracle Mile so much?

Stefani: I like Miracle Mile because it’s a nice place to walk around with family or friends. They host a lot of fun events like “Carnival on the Mile” and it’s a good place to make new connections with other people in Miami. I like to walk my dog there a lot because it is pet friendly and when we eat at restaurants, they always welcome Whisky. Most of the places on Miracle Mile are pet friendly.

Kathleen: Why do you like taking pictures at The Colonnade?

Stefani: I decided to take pictures there because the architecture inside is very pretty and very typical of the Coral Gables ambience. I also chose the Colonnade in Coral Gables because it is in the heart of the city and it’s iconic.

Kathleen: In your opinion, how does Miracle Mile represent Miami?

Stefani: Miracle Mile represents Miami because they display a very close community and they tie together many cultures whether it’s at an event or if you are dining at a restaurant. It’s a very family friendly community and hosts events for all walks of life. Miami has very diverse cultures and to be able to see the Coral Gables community come together with different cultures is truly a beautiful thing.

Landmarks

Miracle Theatre

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

 In 1995, the “Actors’ Playhouse entered into a partnership with the City of Coral Gables in order to renovate the historic Miracle Theatre, transforming the Art Deco movie house into the company’s new home.” This addition to the Mile ended up being “the catalyst for revitalizing downtown Coral Gables.” The Actor’s Playhouse’s presence on Miracle Mile worked to enhance “the quality of life for the community and added to its economic prosperity with over 150,000 patrons attending events each year.” Not only does the theatre have productions playing all year, but they also offer theatre classes and educational programs.

Even amidst everything going on with the Coronavirus, the Actor’s Playhouse is still catering to the community by offering online master classes so anyone can learn to act, sing or dance from the safety of their own home.

City Hall

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Coral Gables City Hall offers the perfect view down Miracle Mile as it’s situated right at the mouth of the boulevard. Designed in the Mediterranean Revival style, City Hall was completed in 1928 by Phineas Paist and Harold Steward and features a stuccoed exterior, tile roof, clock tower, and a Corinthian colonnade. With all of these features reflecting George Merrick’s vision of a Spanish-Mediterranean city, City Hall still manages to have a touch of pure Florida to it as it was built of local limestone; no matter all the influences that congregate together in one place, City Hall, much like the people of the city itself, still manage to be uniquely Miami.

Hotel Colonnade

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Construction of the Colonnade began in 1926 and was designed by Phineas Paist in collaboration with Walter De Garmo and Paul Chalfin, the interior designer of Vizcaya, in a mixture of Spanish Colonial and Baroque styles. Merrick’s original intention for the building was for it to be a host to the largest sales center for the Coral Gables Corporation. Over the years, the Colonnade has been the home to various tenants from the Colonnade Movie Studios to a World War II parachute factory to a pilot training facility. 

In the 1980s, the Colonnade building was showing signs of deterioration but to keep in line with the historic preservation movement that kept modern high rises from changing the character of the area, a 1987 high-rise addition was designed for the backside of the building facing Aragon Avenue, adding an office, hotel, and parking space while keeping the historic low-rise building section fronting Miracle Mile intact. This piece of Colonnade history shows the dedication that the residents of Coral Gables have to the preservation of Miracle Mile’s aesthetic. 

Today, the Colonnade is a hotel that “celebrates the history of travel and the luxury of exploring a new destination in style.” Throughout the inside of the hotel is an original curated collection of art and statues. Keeping with the European feel of the boulevard, the Colonnade is a work of art itself, featuring vaulted ceilings, grand staircases, a rosary style stained glass window, Murano glass chandeliers, and ornate cathedral style wrought iron gates.

Green

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Miracle Mile prides itself on being a pedestrian-heavy area with wide sidewalks, stores lining the streets, and cars cruising down the center. While there is not a particular area dedicated to green on the Mile, there are certainly enough trees – specifically palm trees – dotting the median and either side of the boulevard to remind you you’re in Miami. Because the idea of Miracle Mile itself was an outdoor shopping mall, the main appeal of the Mile is walking down the sidewalks and dining outside under the beautiful Miami sky.

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

However, if you want to spend some time sitting in the grass, people watching, admiring the cars going by, and laughing at some Miami driving skills, there is a small patch of green in front of City Hall with a great view straight down Miracle Mile.

Transportation

To get to Miracle Mile, it’s easy to take the Miami Metrorail and stop at Douglas Road and then hop on the Coral Gables Trolley which travels up Ponce De Leon Boulevard from Miracle Mile to the Metro. The Coral Gables Trolley is free and runs every 12-15 minutes during the week.

In 1950, landowners entered into an agreement with the City to create public parking garages and on lots on the streets behind Miracle Mile and in 1970, when a proposal was made to close Coral Way to vehicular traffic, property owners on Miracle Mile opposed the idea making Miracle Mile continually accessible to cars. 

Food

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Ortanique on the Mile! is a family-owned fine dining restaurant that opened in 1999. Their food is described as being a “cuisine of the sun” and is a fusion of American, Caribbean, Latin and Asian cuisines. 

With dishes on the menu like West Indian Style Bouillabaisse and Jerk Rubbed Foie Gras, Ortanique puts their own flare on classic dishes, cooking with ingredients that are “not necessarily indigenous to Miami but indigenous to the people of Miami” all while providing a very multicultural experience as soon as you step into the colorful and tropical restaurant.

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Under an article entitled “Classic and Historic Coral Gables,” the final entry is none other than John Martin’s Irish Pub and Restaurant which has been open for 30 years. Much like Bellmont, you can go to John Martin’s for more than just a meal because Friday through Sunday they offer a variety of live entertainment. Dedicated to authenticity, you can go to this restaurant for a classic Irish pub experience and sit on the mahogany bar that was imported from a church in Ireland. John Martin’s is also the place to thank for being able to drink liquor served over a bar in Coral Gables, changing the city law that said liquor could only be served at a table.

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Bellmont is a family-owned restaurant that has been open since 2013 that offers authentic Spanish cuisine; you can even go to Bellmont and order a suckling pig. One of the best parts about eating out on the Mile is that you can really eat out on the mile, sitting outside on the wide sidewalks enjoying the Miami night and one thing Bellmont does to make the experience even more fun is that every Saturday night they have a local band come and play and invite their patrons to “Dine and Dance.” Something about ordering a whole pig and dancing to Spanish music just feels very Miami.  

Business

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

The Rose Tree Cottage is a little shop right at the start of the Mile that has an extensive collection of specialty gifts and furniture and also offers interior design services. The store started out the owner’s home and as it grew, her husband found this empty space on the Mile and suggested trying to open a real store. The Red Tree Cottage has been in business for 24 years and has loyal clients who come in from out of state or who call in and describe the person they are buying for, trusting the owner’s judgment to help them find the perfect gift. It’s personal touches like that that make the small businesses on the Mile so appealing.

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Walking into RazzleDazzle, you’ll feel like you’re stepping inside a New York barbershop from the 1940s with ornate decor lining the walls and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Voted the best barbershop in Miami, you can go to RazzleDazzle and get a haircut, shave, and shoeshine all in one place all with a very old-timey, Moulin Rouge vibe.

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Both sides of Miracle Mile have an excess of bridal boutiques ranging from chain stores like David’s Bridal and Rosa Clara to small businesses like Jaquelina’s Bridal and Merlili Bridal. If you’re a bride-to-be in Miami, chances are Miracle Mile is your go-to place to go wedding dress shopping because if one store doesn’t have your dream dress, chances are the boutique next door will.

There is definitely not a shortage of men’s fine clothing stores on the Mile either and one stand out shop is Pepi Bertini. Established in 1985, Pepi Bertini is the go-to place in South Florida for custom-tailored European style men’s clothing. Growing up in Cuba, Pepi Gonzalez’s father, a clothing designer, made him custom clothes and passed on that love for fashion to his son. Ever since the age of 13, Gonzalez has been making and selling clothes and his passion for his design comes through in his work, claiming that “At the end of the day, it’s all about the fit. Our customers demand a well-fitting suit and we deliver.” Gonzalez is also known for making little art installations in his window displays, keeping up with the stylish and current scene of Miracle Mile. 

Summary

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Miracle Mile seems to be an encapsulation of Miami in a one mile walk with its multicultural influences congregating on one street and its wide granite sidewalks designed to resemble the clouds of the South Florida sky. Miami is a city unlike any other and has come to be defined by the cultural influences that residents have brought with them from all over the world. The Mile’s Mediterranean architecture and restaurants that serve a wide variety of cuisines, from Thai to Irish to Caribbean to Italian, show that you can find a little of everything on your walk down the boulevard. Miracle Mile is the place to go for fine clothes, fine dining, and a more than fine time. With art and music events from Carnaval on the Mile to catching a performance at the Miracle Theatre, the Mile offers a little culture in between eating and shopping in an eclectic, South Florida way. Just like every new person you run into in Miami, every shop front down the street has its own unique story to tell. 

Works Cited

“About.” Shop Coral Gables, http://www.shopcoralgables.com/about/.

“Actors’ Playhouse at The Miracle Theatre.” Actors Playhouse at The Miracle Theatre, http://www.actorsplayhouse.org/.

“Coral Gables City Hall.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_Gables_City_Hall.

“Historic Coral Gables: Hotel Colonnade Coral Gables.” Historic Coral Gables | Hotel Colonnade Coral Gables, http://www.hotelcolonnade.com/about/history.

“History.” John Martin’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, http://www.johnmartins.com/history.

“Home.” Home, ortaniquerestaurants.com/.

“Miracle Mile (Coral Gables).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 July 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_Mile_(Coral_Gables)#cite_note-:0-4.

“Miracle Mile: The Evolution of a Street.” Coral Gables Museum, coralgablesmuseum.org/portfolio-item/miracle-mile-evolution-street/#av_section_2.

Nuevo Herald, et al. “Bellmont Spanish Resaurant.” Bellmont Spanish Resaurant, http://www.bellmontrestaurant.com/press/.

“Our Story & Legacy.” Pepi Bertini, http://www.pepibertini.com/our-story/.

“RAZZLEDAZZLE BARBERSHOP.” RAZZLEDAZZLE BARBERSHOP, http://www.razzledazzlebarbershop.com/#about-section.

Shop Coral Gables, director. Rose Tree Cottage. Youtube, 12 Jan. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1LdstP6pw4.

“Your Official Miami and Miami Beach Guide.” Your Official Miami and Miami Beach Guide, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/.

France Spring 2020 As Texts: Kathleen Gomez

Photo by Nicholas Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Kathleen Gomez is a senior at Florida International University studying English Literature. She is in the Honors College and is currently working as a substitute teacher. One day she hopes to have a career which combines her love of literature and baking. In July of 2020, she will be studying abroad in France, learning more about history, the world, and pastries.

Vizcaya as Text

“The Decadence of a Fence” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

From the painting of the Virgin Mary slashed in half simply to be displayed over an organ to the fake books lining the walls to the installation of a dumbwaiter so as not to see any workers, Vizcaya is a true testament to the absolute decadence that wealth can afford. Nothing less could be expected as the first thing you see when you walk into the house is a statue of Dionysus, Greek god of wine, pleasure, and overall debauchery. From the garish Rococo decor in certain rooms to the expanse of elegant gardens with a view of the water, there is no shortage of beauty to look at when visiting Vizcaya. However, when you look up who constructed Vizcaya, you undoubtedly get the name James Deering, and of course, while he owned, paid for, and designed the house, records seem to forget he did not take up the hammer alone; there is nothing of the tenth of Miami’s population or the many Bahamian builders who were enlisted to complete the project. We can appreciate and indulge in the luxurious lifestyle of Deering by visiting his house and living vicariously through retellings of the history all we want but we shouldn’t forget those who helped build it and who lived there to help keep it running because, in the end, it was just as much their house as Deering’s. 

Just because Deering had a secret garden where those of the upper class could sneak away for affairs with those of lower social standing doesn’t mean that we should keep the people who helped build this lavish house a secret of history. Upon first walking up to the house and seeing the moat, the words of David Walker, an American abolitionist, came to mind: “The greatest riches in all America have arisen from our blood and tears: and will they drive us from our property and homes, which we have earned with our blood?” When you think back to the moat that was added to keep people off the property and the concealed passages for workers to slip by unnoticed by higher society, you truly see the divide that comes about with excess. As we saw in episode 6 of Versailles, Louis XIV was unsympathetic towards, or at least unaware of, the needs of his workers, showing how money can create a barrier between people and that sometimes that barrier is a moat.  So what makes something belong to someone? Is it the one who pays for it with money or the one who pays for it with work?


MOAD as Text

A language of Liberty: A Freedom Tower Abecedarian” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU at the Freedom Tower

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

All our histories are reflected back at us

behind glass cases, plastered on walls.

Cartographers documented our paths across a nation

detailing our journey from HOME to home.

Every face staring back at me has a story

from the ones in a frame to the ones talking to me as we walk up the stairs.

Gomez, Rodolfo. I hear the name echoing in the walls of this tower.

Here, in the heart of Miami, stands a monument to freedom. 

Inspired by the Giralda, the grand bell tower in Spain,

jutting out along the Miami skyline,

knelling the freedom that so many seek in the US. 

Lingering outside, I can’t help but smile at

“My statue of liberty.” Did he have this same feeling?

No one knows our story, and yet everyone does. 

Oceans away, we found the idea for universal human rights.

Perhaps I’m only an American. Maybe I don’t know Spanish and I can’t

quite say Pedro Pan or Ministerio del Interior with ease but

really, when I walk up to the glass cases in this tower I see my history, I

see my grandpa’s eyes smiling in mine, his nose wrinkling with laughter.

Taking a look out the window, I see the city that greeted him.

Understand that without the notion of universal human rights, the

very European ideology of crossing an ocean, of fighting for equality, I

wouldn’t be here today, looking at a city made up of dreams. Leave your

xenophobia at the door on your way into our city and

yell from this monument of freedom, shout from this statue of liberty with

zeal that La Libertad para todos está aquí.

Deering Estate as Text

“Where Art and Nature Converge” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU

Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0

“Out of the rolling ocean the crowd came a drop gently to me,”

a drop that has traveled from far and wide,

across the earth, foaming and chasing

by the tide. 

I’ve been cleansed by the Basin,

by the drops that have seen more world than I.

Epics are told in the lap of water on the shore,

and what can I do but listen?

Art is born from inspiration,

from the stories we hear dancing in the trees,

words waltzing in on a wind blown in from miles away,

from splashes in the brackish sky

and clouds in the clear sea.

These two fingers feel the pulse of the ocean,

nothing can mar el mar.

Art resides in nature,

the currents are sculptors,

shaping and carving new worlds.

The sun, smiling on the Point, 

a painter, splattering colors on canvas each night.

The crunch of the leaves underfoot, musicians,

singing a dirge for those who became earth. 

The plants out back, dancers

swaying and twisting their limbs, 

moving in patterns rare to the land.

And me? I can only hope a poet,

sitting on the edge of departure,

crafting ekphrastic phrases

that may go to someone

as the drop came to me.

The words bob in my head as though a bottle on the sea

and anchored by a house of stone,

they shatter on the shore. 

Nature is a masterpiece,

the estate its museum

and all of us now and again patrons,

in residency or not,

interpreting the beauty of the earth

and making it our own

“Every day at sundown for your dear sake, my love.”

-After Walt Whitman

History Miami as Text

“Are Words Enough?” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Can mere words do history justice?

What does a little placard hung up in a little room matter

when no one even knows the museum exists?

A footnote is not a sufficient place for stories.

For histories.

And do you want to know how I know that?

Because today you hear “the Chinese virus” dripping from TVs,

see people scorched with dirty looks and branded with disgust. 

A museum off of Flagler Street doesn’t matter in the end

if textbooks aren’t stained with our mistakes.

No, not just mistakes.

Atrocities. 

We have blood on our hands and a little memorial in a dark room won’t cut it anymore.

It’s time for schools to have classes dedicated to the people we’ve put out of house and home.

Words are just the start.

Words mean nothing if they’re spoken for no one to hear,

Written for no one to read. 

Words need to be acted upon,

Spoken over and over for people to memorize.

To know.

To commit to their hearts and change their ways.

We may be the “Magic City”

But shoving our past all onto the second floor causes us to lose our charm. 

Do not take this the wrong way, 

We should all visit the history of Miami at the HistoryMiami museum

And learn about the true Floridians,

The ones that lived here before the colonial experience

The ones that built the city we live in today.

But an afternoon spent strolling through exhibits shouldn’t be our stopping point.

Words can do history justice as long as we don’t tuck them away or whisper them.

Words can do history justice as long as we don’t stop speaking them.

Miami Beach as Text

“A Golden Shovel Lying on the Shore of South Beach” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

I cannot wait for that exultation

that will wash over me as I finally stand on the shore. Is

that day so far away? How much longer till I can walk along the

words that make up my city, going

from “Some Days at Sea” to the feeling of 

one day on the beach? I long for the glow I’ll feel on Ocean Drive when an 

icon studded in neon reminds me I’m no longer stuck inland.

I’m finally back on the beach, babe. I feel my soul

walk two paces behind me, taking in the sights, the smells, the city. I can’t wait to 

peek out that porthole window in my pastel portmanteau-esque sea-

side motel and see Miami fill the streets of Miami again. Then I’ll walk past 

the mangroves’ epitaph written in the foam that tickles my toes and know the 

worst thing in the world is not to be confined to our houses.

I cannot wait to get lost on the beach and think about all that can’t be lost to the past.

I cannot wait to watch the Miami sun get caught in the stained glass of the 

Jewish Museum and watch it shed light on stories too true not to tell. Caught in our headlands,

we cannot forget what we have done. Caught up in the moment we must plunge into

the present and make amends for the past. Watch me fall deep

into the now of Miami that holds a past and a future of eternity.

After Emily Dickinson