From Seminole War battleground to Bahamian pioneer outpost to groovy hippie haven, Coconut Grove has had several incarnations. Originally spelled Cocoanut Grove – its residents decided to drop the “a” after its incorporation as a city in 1919- the village has attracted sailors, academics, artists, explorers, drop-outs and scientists. It was the place where northern millionaires built their sprawling estates near the bay and Bahamian blacks turned Charles Avenue into a district lush with its own sense of history and architecture.
The Grove was the first black community in Dade and home of the Mariah Brown House. Brown was one of Coconut Grove’s first African-Bahamian residents and her home is thought to be one of the first houses with a black owner. From Dinner Key you can admire Miami’s City Hall, once the terminal for Pan Am’s famed clipper service. Along Main Highway, you can still see old vestiges of the Grove: Carrolton School, El Jardin, Miami’s first Mediterranean Building; Bryan Memorial United Methodist Church, a Byzantine-influenced memorial to William Jennings Bryan; Plymouth Church, with its mission- style coral rock buildings; the old Pagoda at Ransom Everglades. When Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe moved into the Grove in 1888 he began to design his next home, which would eventually be known as the Barnacle, now a historic site. In the 60’s the Grove was a local counterculture mecca where hippies would circulate “Being Nice” flyers and camp out – uninvited – in vacant lots and public parks. In recent years, the Grove has moved away from being a quiet, everybody-knows-everybody community with a vibrant artist population to a nightlife and shopping alternative to South Beach. The changes have caused some friction but powerful civic forces have managed to preserve the community’s character. Today, you can find pieces of the old grove mixed in with the sleek mainstream storefronts concentrated in the Cocowalk area.