Family-Friendly Cauley Square Historic Railroad Village

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By Shayne Benowitz

Experience Old South Florida’s historic railroad village for a one-of-a-kind experience in Goulds.

A visit to Cauley Square Historic Railroad Village in the Goulds area of South Dade is a transporting experience. Nearly an hour’s drive south from Downtown Miami, Goulds is a part of Miami’s heartland where acres of green pasture are farmed for everything from strawberries to tomatoes, honey and palm trees. The city’s freeways open up to long country roads lined with farms and lush foliage. Amidst this pastoral, subtropical idyll, Cauley Square is a 10-acre village composed of winding paths and tropical gardens that lead visitors to antique shops, art galleries, wellness spas, restaurants and even an aviary.

The History

Cauley Square is truly a step back in time to Old South Florida at the turn of the 20th century when Henry Flagler built his East Coast Railway through Miami and the Florida Keys. William Cauley owned 10 acres of land along the railroad line and used them to build a two-story warehouse, packinghouse and office for shipping his agriculture. With homes and restaurants in demand for his and the railroad’s workers, Cauley Square swiftly developed into a village with wooden homes, saloons and small businesses. After the Miami hurricane of 1926, the Great Depression and World War II, the village fell into decline and was eventually condemned.

Enter preservationist Mary Anne Ballard who moved to South Miami in 1949. She purchased Cauley Square and set out to restore it. She opened the Tea Room in 1979 and brought in more pioneer cottages to house individual businesses. However, the village was damaged again during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and after Ballard passed away, more financial troubles loomed. Finally, Honduran immigrant Frances Varela purchased and took over Cauley Square in 2001, and spent a decade beautifying the grounds with lovely gardens, fountains, walkways and 25 restored buildings including a chapel. Today, it honors South Miami’s heritage while maintaining a charming, one-of-a-kind experience for visitors.

The Shops Cauley Square is anchored by a two-story aviary with a selection of exotic birds and supplies. They have cages full of squawking cockatoos, macaws, parakeets, lovebirds and much more. Whether you’re in the market for a bird or not, it’s an entertaining stop in the village. Across the street, you’ll notice a replica of a bright red train car, a nod to Flagler’s railroad that once ran right past Cauley Square. There’s also the Village Florist for lovely flower arrangements in a cozy lime green cottage.

Don’t miss Leni Borges Design and her collection of hand crocheted clothing and apparel. You’ll find Sacred Rock Stars for jewelry, crystals, reiki healing therapies and meditation practice. Artist Carlos Franco specializes in large scale portraits at his gallery where you can commission work and the Stained Glass Gallery is a marvel of lamp shades and windows. O’ Sew Crafty offers a menagerie of antiques, handmade arts and crafts, porcelain dolls, candles and linens for unique gifts.

The Restaurants

Cauley Square’s longstanding restaurant, The Tea Room, is open for lunch, high tea and dinner seven days a week in a lovely Victorian setting at the center of the village. With six rooms, each outfitted in its own distinct décor and style, the Tea Room is an homage to the English tradition and ritual surrounding tea drinking. The rooms are open to the public and can also accommodate private events and parties. The Wicker Room is the largest with a Steinway piano and white lace tablecloths, while the Pipe Room is the most intimate, seating 12.

With everything from soups, salads and larger entrees on the menu, their tea service is the highlight. Served on a three tier platter, choose from Afternoon, Royal or High Tea selections that include everything from mini quiche, assorted scones, cookies, banana breads and finger sandwiches along with your choice of a pot of tea.

While the Village Chalet is open for lunch, it’s especially a treat at dinnertime on the weekends when live music, from jazz to sock hop, fills the air at the 1920s-inspired bar serving beer and wine. With a covered patio tucked into the garden and white tablecloths, the setting is both relaxed and refined. The menu features everything from pasta to steaks to Latin-inspired dishes.

For a casual bite while exploring Cauley Square, head to the inviting Latin Corner gazebo for everything from Cuban coffee and empanadas to sandwiches, milkshakes and hotdogs. The setting amidst the garden’s lush foliage is one of the prettiest in the village.

Weddings & Special Events

Cauley Square also specializes in weddings with many options available to customize your special day. Ceremonies and receptions can be planned at any combination of gardens, including the Courtyard Garden, Fountain Garden, Tropical Garden, Christ Garden, Sanctuary Garden or Bridge Garden. Onsite planners are available to guide you in creating your dream wedding style, from rustic to traditional to vintage. Catering is available from Cauley Square’s onsite restaurants making it a cinch to plan a night you’ll never forget.

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