Church, Historic Garden in Coral Gables Fall as New Condo Builds | opinion – Low Calorie Diets Tips

A view of Our Lord's Garden in Coral Gables.  “I am someone who is open to change and progress.  However, I am not in favor of tearing down our traditions and historic sites.  I think some things are worth preserving.”

A view of Our Lord’s Garden in Coral Gables. “I am someone who is open to change and progress. However, I am not in favor of tearing down our traditions and historic sites. I think some things are worth preserving.”

I recently got a call from Bonnie Bolton who, like her late mother, Roxcy Bolton, is a community activist. Bonnie wanted me to know that one of the historic sites in Coral Gables—an entire block that includes St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church, the adjacent Garden of Our Lord, and the Chrystal Academy School at 110 Phoenetia Ave. includes – was bought by Century Home Builders and is soon to be demolished to make way for luxury apartments and a new school.

I’m someone who is open to change and progress. However, I am not in favor of tearing down our traditions and historic sites. I think some things are worth preserving.

I met Bonnie recently for a tour of Our Lord’s Garden. It was a peaceful, sunny day. with butterflies fluttering from bush to bush and birds singing in the nearby treetops. We took a stroll past a pool that was once a flowing fountain surmounted by a marble statue of Jesus. Since the property was sold, the garden has become almost overgrown and the pool is filled with brown, stagnant water.

As I walked along the garden path, I imagined what it must have looked like back then. We passed a derelict arch where, on any given weekend in its heyday, the garden would have been filled with wedding guests as the bride and groom exchanged vows of love under the arch.

As we strolled, Bonnie pointed out bronze plaques on the floor at several points. “The garden also served as a cemetery,” she said. “The remains of several pioneer residents of Coral Gables rest in this garden. What will they do with their remains when they tear down the garden?”

A story in the Miami Herald in June 1951 told of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Garden of Our Lord. The story said that the garden would contain “…trees, plants and shrubs from the Bible and other flowers and trees of religious significance. A memorial wall to enclose the garden should be erected immediately.”

According to the garden’s history, many of its trees and shrubs were grown from seeds brought from the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem in the early 1950s by Hazel Westby, who was a professor at the University of Miami and Coral Gables at the time. Westby is said to have been on leave from the University of Miami to teach at the American University in Beirut when she acquired the seeds.

Based on the seeds Westby brought, many of the trees in the garden now date back over 2,000 years to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The garden was once home to a myrrh tree, as well as palm and almond trees. Near the pool there are remains of rushes, the bush used to make the basket to hide baby Moses.

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In addition to a biblical garden, the site was also known as a war memorial garden.

“That means it’s a biblical garden,” Bonnie said, “because many of the trees in the garden were grown from these seeds and they can be traced back to when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.”

In addition to a biblical garden, the site was also known as a war memorial garden. William Carbeau, one of the garden’s founders, was the first to place a plaque on the garden’s inner wall to commemorate his son, Captain William Carbeau, Jr., who was killed in World War II in 1944 at the age of 23. Miscellaneous War memorial plaques soon followed, including one dedicated to a Coral Gables resident who survived the Bataan Death March.

There is a plaque dedicated to Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Dr. Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark V. Poling and Reverend John P. Washington, the four World War II clergymen, of all different denominations and faiths, who, according to the story, surrendered their life jackets to four crews when their ship, the ill-fated troop carrier The Dorchester, off the coast of Greenland, was torpedoed. The story goes that the clergy went down with the ship and prayed as it sank.

The garden also served to honor many other citizens, including Clara Maass, an Army nurse who served during the Spanish-American War. After her release, Maass reportedly dedicated her life to developing vaccines. There is a plaque dedicated to her on the garden wall.

There is a plaque commemorating George E. Merrick, born June 3, 1886 and died March 26, 1942, which reads: “For bringing the best of Spanish art, architecture and culture to the New World, especially Florida . He was decorated by the King of Spain. He will always be celebrated by an appreciative citizenry for his vision for the future, his love of the artistic and his development of Coral Gables, the City Beautiful.”

As I walked through the garden, it was hard to understand why anyone would not want to continue preserving this block of land that holds so much of the city’s and nation’s history.

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The block purchased includes St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church.

I spoke to Sergio Pino, the owner of Century Home Builders, the company that bought the property. The 1.47-acre site was purchased in November 2021 for approximately $9.8 million.

He said: “The property was for sale. And when I bought it, only about 20 people attended the church. My plan is to build luxury condos and a new school on the property. It will be nice.” Construction is provisionally planned for 2023.

And while some in the community would like to see the church and garden preserved, Pino said that won’t happen. He said he understands that the garden and church hold great sentimental value to the community, but he said: “We will also find a place for the plaques and other reminders in the garden and church, including another suitable resting place for the remains of those buried there.

“We don’t go in there and move anything improperly. Everything we move is done with the utmost respect. We will do this in collaboration with church leaders and the community. We want to ensure that whatever the history of the property, it is treated with the utmost respect.”

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Bea L. Hines can be reached at Bea.Hines@gmail.com

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