Laura Yusko, 62, has been a teacher for the last 40 years. She teaches reading at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church & School in Coral Gables and now looks forward to giving residents of Coral Gables a history lesson.
The Merrick House in Coral Gables, boyhood home of the city’s founder, George Merrick, will be holding monthly events beginning in October to give locals a chance to learn about the history of George Merrick and his family.
The series of events, titled “Sundays on the Porch with George,” will feature jazz performances, cooking demonstrations, gardening exhibits and more.
“We’ve been working for close to a year, trying to align talent and draw people to learn about George Merrick,” said Yusko, chairman of the Merrick House’s board. “This house is a neighborhood treasure.”
Originally from Pennsylvania, George Merrick came to Florida in 1898 at age 12.
In 1915, he was appointed as a Dade County commissioner and began working on road projects, which would help lead to the development of Coral Gables.
The first event, which will be on Oct. 13, will feature early 20th century jazz performed by the CAP All-Star Jazz Ensemble. This group of student musicians is affiliated with the historic Coral Gables Congregational Church. Considered the oldest established organization in Coral Gables, the church was founded in 1923 by George Merrick to honor his father Solomon.
“He really transformed the city with his vision,” Yusko said. “When you are in the house, you can really appreciate the value of historic preservation in a city like this.”
The board is hosting a kick-off party at 6 p.m. Thursday to give residents an idea of what to expect for the events.
“The party is free to attend and will include wine, cheese and other refreshments,” Yusko said. “This is a good chance to let people in the community know what to expect regarding the upcoming events and for people to introduce themselves to one another.”
Yusko is working with Susan Rodriguez, governing board member who organizes the events, and the two look forward to providing education as well as entertainment.
“We want to bring the community together to learn about the pioneering family,” Rodriguez said “All of our events are in some way tied to an event in the family’s history.”
Rodriguez, co-founder of Edible Community Gardens Project, a program which teaches residents how to garden organically, also talked about the gardens at the Merrick House.
“We will be showing people the beautiful gardens that are at the Merrick House, which include the Althea’s flower garden restored by the Coral Gables Garden club and the Edible garden maintained by the Edible Community Gardens Project,” Rodriguez said. “These grounds include many fruit trees as well as butterfly and native plants.”
Dona Spain, Coral Gables’ historic preservation officer, looks forward to the events.
“The ‘Sundays on the Porch with George’ is a great series of community events that highlight the Merrick House and its rich history,” Spain said. “We want everyone to learn about the history of Coral Gables in a family, friendly and fun atmosphere.”