Coral Gables

Coral Gables

Merrick House re-creates wedding of Coral Gables founder George Merrick

 

jsalo@miamiherald.com

From the cake to the wedding dress, no detail of the wedding celebration was overlooked.

The only thing missing? The bride and groom.

The couple, George Merrick and Eunice Peacock, got married in 1916 and have long since passed away.

No matter. The Sunday celebration at the Merrick House in Coral Gables was quite festive — harp music played as 200 guests took their seats on the lawn to celebrate the courtship and marriage of the couple. He was the founder of Coral Gables, she a descendent of the Peacock family of Coconut Grove.

It was all part of the free series, “Sundays on the Porch with George,’’ which invites the community each month to enjoy the historic Merrick House and gardens at 907 Coral Way.

In attendance was Miami historian Arva Moore Parks, who knew Peacock and shared stories about the couple and read Merrick’s poems to Peacock.

“They have an extraordinary love story,” said Parks, who is writing a book, George Merrick’s Coral Gables.

Parks described everything from their first meeting as children to their relationship during Merrick’s last years. She says the relationship had its ups and downs, but Merrick deeply loved Peacock, whose family owned the first hotel in Coconut Grove, The Peacock Inn, whose first tourists came in 1886 — about a decade before Miami was born.

As a young girl, Peacock received attention around town for her beauty, but Merrick did not begin to court her until she returned from finishing school when she was 17. By the time, Merrick had become wealthy from owning plantations in the area.

The couple wed on Feb. 15, 1916, at Peacock’s Flagler Street home.

“They were two strong, intelligent individuals, who were not particularly suited for each other,” Parks said. “While Eunice was intelligent, she was not as intellectual as George.”

But when Merrick fell into debt during the Great Depression, Peacock stayed by his side. They remained married until his death in 1942 at the age of 55.

“Despite rocky times, there is no doubt that there was an abiding love between them,” Parks said.

For Ellen Uguccioni, a former historic preservation officer for Coral Gables, hearing about the couple’s history was moving.

“Here was a man who went from the summit to the basement and they survived,” Uguccioni said. “It was an aspect of the couple that I did not know much about until now.”

After the presentation, guests were invited to enjoy wedding cake and explore the home, where a collection of vintage wedding gowns were on display. Leigh Anne Brown, a Tampa-based wedding gown collector, brought the 17 gowns from 1890 to 1949.

“This is the first time I had the opportunity to do an event where the gowns really look like they belong,” said Brown. “They look perfect in this historic house.”

Organizers also invited artisans to teach calligraphy, doily making, embroidery and how to construct flower arrangements.

“People loved the demonstrators and having them on the old white veranda gave the effect that this wedding really was 100 years ago,” said Joanne Meagher, the chair of the event.

Meagher believes that the Merricks would have enjoyed the celebration.

“They might have thought it was a little fancy for the taste, but I think they would have been quite honored,” she said.

Read more Coral Gables stories from the Miami Herald

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