Although the Miami Herald was a great advocate of our organization’s preservation efforts in trying to save the La Salle property from demolition, it was not enough to keep the historic building standing.
Before it was known as La Salle, the 1923 building stood as the birthplace of Coral Gables. It was the first office of city founder George Merrick’s Coral Gables Construction Company, responsible for building vast portions of the city in the 1920s. This place matters.
It is a sad day when a place’s cultural heritage is erased. The recent demolition of La Salle brings the sadness home. Although it took many months to raze the building, its fate was sealed in just minutes in 2018, when the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board disregarded the recommendation of the city’s Historic Resources Department and rejected designation.
Equally significant is that the building met all four designation criteria under the city’s preservation ordinance. If any building should have been designated historic, it was this one. La Salle did not matter enough.
Ironically, the city’s zoning code states that it “preserves the distinctive historic and architectural character of the municipality.” Have the words “preserves” and “historic” become meaningless? Places matter.
Coincidentally, a resolution was passed last year to give Historic Landmark Designation to the city’s Historic City Plan. But this is about preserving the cultural heritage of a community every time it presents itself. Places matter.
May is the month preservationists around the world celebrate Historic Preservation, with slogans such as This Place Matters. Unfortunately for Coral Gables, La Salle’s historical significance did not matter enough.
Karelia Martinez Carbonell,
Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables