It’s hard to believe that about 120 years ago you could buy 40 acres of land, on Biscayne Bay, for $400.
In 1886 Ralph Munroe made a clever investment and more than a century later the property is relatively unchanged. The Barnacle, built in 1891, is a historic place to visit on a trip to Coconut Grove. It’s the oldest residence in Miami-Dade County and a beautiful waterfront State Park made available to the public. Visit the Barnacle to take a tour of the facility, including a museum inside the original house, have a picnic on the grounds overlooking the water, observe the habitat of many wild animals and birds native to the area and see what the once expansive “Miami Hammock” ecology was like before buildings and concrete settled in.
The story of The Barnacle starts out rather sad, but the home’s important historical value made the rocky beginnings of The Barnacle worth it; we’re sure Ralph Munroe and his family would agree.
Munroe moved to South Florida in 1881 when his wife, Eva Muroe, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Doctors told him the best hope for his wife was a drastic relocation to a warmer climate. So he packed up and brought Eva to sunny South Florida. Despite his efforts, the illness claimed Eva’s life. Munroe returned to New York. But after yearning to see his wife’s grave, Munroe returned to South Florida one year later. Along with his brother-in-law he helped to open a hotel, what became another historic Coconut Grove site, The Peacock Inn. He purchased 40 acres of nearby land on the water at $400 and spent another $400 on sailboats before he started to call Coconut Grove home.
Munroe, a sailing enthusiast and hobbyist boat designer, lived on a boat while his first home on The Barnacle property, though not yet known by that name, was built. The home’s irregular room shapes, like an octagonal central room, earned it the name that’s stuck with the property ever since: The Barnacle. Eventually, Munroe outgrew the one story home and needed a larger space, so he took the whole home, raised it and added a second story below. His design for the building was inspired by his knowledge of the principles of boat design and traditional Caribbean home construction.
The Barnacle has survived historic storms like Hurricane Andrew. Still, there’s much preserved history to be seen and explored at The Barnacle State Park.
Today At The Barnacle
Guided tours of The Barnacle are available Friday to Monday at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. The park is closed on Tuesdays. This affordable outing, $3 for adults and $1 for children, is a must-see for history and architecture buffs or anyone who enjoys a beautiful view.
Check the programming in advance, there’s more to do at this beautiful site than just take a tour. Come by for a class of Yoga by the Sea, a special event like a chili cook-off or a screening of a movie under the stars. The Barnacle Society works year-round to deliver high quality and fun programming for interested members of the community and visitors.
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