When the founder of Coral Gables, George Merrick, wed Eunice Peacock in 1916 at her family’s Flagler Street home, it was a low-key affair with only family in attendance.
On Sunday, however, the courtship and marriage of the history-making couple will be brought to life in an elegant wedding celebration on the lawn of the historic Merrick House in Coral Gables.
“Eunice & George’s Wedding Celebration” is the fifth event in a series of seven hosted by the City of Coral Gables and the Merrick House Governing Board. The free, monthly series, “Sundays on the Porch with George,’’ showcases the Merrick House and gardens at 907 Coral Way.
With each event, guests are transported back to a different chapter in Merrick family history. The wedding celebration will explore the couple’s tumultuous, but passionate love story, says Arva Moore Parks, a Miami historian who is writing a book, George Merrick’s Coral Gables, and will speak at the event.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Merrick met his future wife when he came to Florida with his family in 1898 when he was 12. Peacock was 4 at the time, and the granddaughter of Charles and Isabella Peacock, who built the first hotel in the Biscayne Bay area, the former Peacock Inn in Coconut Grove.
Peacock, however, did not reconnect with Merrick until she returned from finishing school at age 18 and became one of the most sought-after girls in town.
“When she came back, she hit the town like a storm,” Parks said.
At the time, Merrick was wealthy from owning the largest and most prosperous plantations in the area. In 1914, two years before their union, Merrick was appointed as a Dade County commissioner and began working on road projects, which contributed to the development of Coral Gables in 1925.
“George was very handsome and had his choice of women, but Eunice was the only woman in town who gave him a hard time,” said Parks.
Merrick courted her by taking her on car rides three times a week throughout South Florida, a novelty for the early 20th century. In one 1914 telegram from Merrick to Peacock, he wrote, “I’m still chasing after you, habit is hard to break.”
The couple finally wed on Feb. 15, 1916, surrounded by family and with the bride in a silk dress. But as newlyweds, their differences began to drive them apart.
“Eunice was more social than George, and never really gave him the praise he needed,” Parks said. “They had their ups and downs.”
Despite their differences, their marriage became stronger when Merrick fell heavily into debt in 1928 after the real estate bust hit Florida hard.
“They became very close again during this time,” Parks said. “She was really there for him.”
Peacock stayed by his side, although Merrick never fully recovered his losses. She remained married to him until his death in 1942 at the age of 55.
Parks, who knew Peacock personally, will help paint a picture of their courtship and marriage at the celebration. She plans to read Merrick’s telegrams to Peacock and his poetry.
In addition, artisans will teach cake decorating, calligraphy, doily making, embroidery and how to construct flower arrangements on the lawn.
“Guests will be able to walk away with some practical knowledge for entertaining,” said Joanne Meagher, the wedding celebration’s chairperson.
The home, which will be adorned with photos of the couple and flower arrangements, will be open for self-guided tours. On the dining room table, there will be gifts presented as if the bride had just opened them and guests will be able to sample wedding cake from Kelly Family Bakery in Miami.
“We really want to create the sense that a wedding is about to happen,” Meagher said.
The organizers also hope to give guests a look at weddings of the time. Leigh Anne Brown, a wedding gown collector, will share a portion of her vintage gown collection for viewing inside the house. Also, Chic Parisien Bridal, on Ponce de Leon in Coral Gables, plans to bring vintage-inspired wedding gowns and evening wear for a fashion show.
Said Susan Rodriguez, the “Sundays on the Porch with George” committee chair: “This series allows us to engage the community and have them walk away with some history. We also want them to enjoy the property.”