Cauley Square was not spared by the pounding of Hurricane Irma.
The towering trees that created its thick canopy toppled. The village’s narrow road was impassable, blocked by giant tree trunks and downed power lines. Though the shops were not badly damaged, the property’s scenic setting was destroyed.
“It’s heartbreaking,” the owner, Frances Varela, said Monday. “The good news is that there was minor structural damage. Bad news is that we now need to fix up all the trees. I have weddings next month that we will still move forward.”
It was not Cauley Square’s first dance with a hurricane. The historic site was not exempt from the fury of Hurricane Andrew, which 25 years ago caused more than $1 million in damages to the property.
The former railroad village was built in 1903 and sits on the corner of U.S. 1 and 224th Street in far South Miami-Dade, where it nestled among mature trees and tropical foliage, including ficus, poinciana and palms. Since the early 2000s the property has been a popular wedding destination with a rustic air.
Hurricanes Andrew, Wilma and now Irma have nothing on Cauley Square. I rebuilt then and I will rebuild now.
Frances Varela, Cauley Square owner
“Hurricanes Andrew, Wilma and now Irma have nothing on Cauley Square,” Varela said. “I rebuilt then and I will rebuild now.”
The village sports a quaint collection of more than two dozen Old Florida cottages, shops, restaurants, gardens and galleries that surround the main building — originally a two-story flatiron structure that pioneer farmer William H. Cauley built as a warehouse 114 years ago. In later years the Spanish-style stucco walls hid a speakeasy — an illicit liquor store. A spiral staircase, since removed, led to a bordello.
Many of the original cottages served as homes for workers for Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway, which stretched to Key West. Cauley would use this depot to ship his tomatoes north in the winter. One of the old red cabooses sat nearly unharmed Monday near the entrance.
Cauley Square is the last railroad village in Florida and one of the last in the country.