On the shores of Biscayne Bay sits a house preserving a sliver of history. Standing in its original location in Coconut Grove, The Barnacle is known as the oldest residence in Miami-Dade County. It’s a real architectural treasure that offers a glimpse of Old Florida during the Era of the Bay.
It is said that the house was built in 1891 for Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of the Grove’s most influential pioneers. He first moved from New York to sunny South Florida after his wife, Eva, was diagnosed with tuberculosis and doctors urged they relocate to a warmer climate as a means of recovery. Yet despite his efforts, illness took its toll and Munroe would move back. In 1882, he returned to South Florida to visit his wife’s grave and would go on to encourage early settlers, Charles and Isabella Peacock, to establish a hotel that became another historic Coconut Grove site, the Peacock Inn.
As a lover of sailing and boat design, he first lived in a boathouse on the 40-acre property as the the bungalow was being constructed. Munroe named it The Barnacle because he thought the lines of the roof resembled the shape of the sessile crustacean. Its design also included an octagonal central room.
Four years after the house was built, Munroe married Jessie Wirth, whom he met on a trip from visiting family and they would go on to have two children, Patty and Wirth. Needing more space to fit a growing family, Munroe altered the roof and lifted the whole house to add a second story below.
When admiring the facade of the house and its property, you are immediately struck by its distinctive orange tiles and tropical hardwood hammock that transport us to a bygone era, one far from the urban bustle of city that exists today. It has survived several historic storms, such as the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 with minimal damage and several generations of the family lived in it until 1973, when it was sold to the State of Florida to be preserved as a museum.
Inside, time is almost frozen. Visitors taking a tour are welcomed by many of the original antiques and furnishings donated by the Munroe family. Each piece tells a story, offering a hint of the daily life of past centuries.
Today, the Barnacle Historic State Park is a popular spot for both history enthusiasts and those looking for a beautiful view. It is open to the public, offering a unique experience to go back in time to the history of Coconut Grove and all of South Florida. Aside from guided tours, there are concerts, yoga classes, movie screenings, picnic dates and more events to choose from at the site. Or you can simply lay back on the lawn and enjoy the same view as Munroe did with his family back in the early 1900s.
The Barnacle Society Inc., a nonprofit volunteer organization, works all year to set up fun programming and preserve the historic state park.
📍 The Barnacle Historic State Park is located at 3485 Main Hwy, Miami, FL 33133. To learn more about it and the nonprofit organization, click here.