Tag Archives: E.W.F. Stirrup

Say Goodbye to the E.W.F. Stirrup House While You Still Can

Right now there’s still a bit of old among
the new, but not for long. May 18, 2016

Why was the E.W.F. Stirrup House
so important to the community?

Read: Happy Birthday Coconut
Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past

If you’re a longtime reader of Not Now Silly, you know of my years-long campaign to SAVE THE E.W.F. Stirrup House. It is with great sadness that I report the fight has been lost.

I’m throwing in the towel.

Let me be clear. A developer is going ahead with the “Historic E.W.F. Stirrup House Bed & Breakfast.” It is currently in the process of … what’s the correct word? Clearly not renovation.

I say that because I spoke to the foreman on the 18th, who confirmed what I feared. When they are done, not a single piece of the original house will remain. It will be all new construction — from the piers on which the house will sit right up through the roof.

Therefore, it will no longer be the oldest house on Charles Avenue. It will no longer be the Historically Designated E.W.F. Stirrup House.

This NEW! IMPROVED!! Stirrup House will be a mere re-creation. An ectype. An analogue of the original. A facsimile. A carbon copy. A semblance of the former. A clone. A chip off the old wood block. A mere imitation. Imposture!!! It will be a double, aka duplicate doppelgänger. A dead ringer for what used to be. A mega-ditto. An impersonation of a historic structure. An ersatz E.W.F. Stirrup House. It will be a deceit, or deception. It’s a put-on. A reproduction. A copycat. Bogus and just an effigy of the original. An incredible likeness. A look-alike. A replica. The spitting image. A pseudo E.W.F. Stirrup House, or a simulacrum. A twin, but counterfeit. It’s a fake, a forgery, and a fraud. Merely a knockoff. A phony E.W.F. Stirrup House. A sad replication. A rip-off. A hoax. A sham. A mock-up. A simulation. Just a representation. A shadow of its former self. An archetype of the Stirrup House. An impression of what once was. Merely an approximation. Possibly a reincarnation, if you believe in that.

The northwest corner of the Stirrup House, May 18, 2016.

On the left: front. On the right: the west side. Nothing of
the original house remains, the fate for the rest of the house.

In other words: even though he built
it with his own 2 hands, it will be a house that Ebenezer Woodbury
Franklin Stirrup never touched.

According to the Cleveland Restoration Society‘s guidelines, this is called a “Reconstruction”:

The act or process of depicting, by means of new work, the form, features, and detailing on a non surviving historic structure for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific time in its historic location.

I asked my source, who has rehabbed many old and historic houses, whether the preservationist community looks upon these recreations with the same disdain I now look upon the NEW! IMPROVED!! E.W.F. Stirrup House.

Not if it had burned down or had fallen so far into disrepair that nothing could be salvaged.

And, therein lies the rub.

The E.W.F. Stirrup House has undergone nearly a decade of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. I have THOUSANDS of pictures of the Stirrup House that document the slow disintegration of the historic structure over
the last 7 years. For the majority of that time this house was not
sealed from the elements, with windows either open, missing, or broken. The all-wooden house had no protection from the wind-driven rain and from the invasive vines, reptiles and insects that took over when people moved out. No wonder the developers were able to argue nothing could be salvaged.

The official reason given for
starting from scratch is termite damage. However — and I cannot stress this enough — had the house been sealed
and protected, there may not have been quite the infestation. They allowed the worst devastation to occur on their watch. Before they got a hold of it, the house was a rental property.

Bottom line: The developer profited from allowing the house to fall apart. It would have been far more expensive to bring the old structure up to code than it will be to wire and plumb an entirely new structure.

The Mariah Brown House was once
the oldest house on Charles Avenue

IRONY ALERT!!! This is the same fate that befell the Mariah Brown House, a few doors west of the Stirrup House. What is now seen is not the Mariah Brown House. It’s a relatively new re-creation.

The Mariah Brown House was once the oldest house on Charles Avenue. “Mary the Washer-woman,” as she was known, and her husband were the first to buy land on the Frow Homestead on a footpath that later became Evangelist Street, for the number of churches that were strung along its length. It’s now known as Charles Avenue.

The Browns were among the original Bahamian labourers at The Peacock Inn, right at the beginning of the nascent South Florida tourist industry. Those tourists traps — just like modern day tourist traps — needed a service industry. The Bahamians drifting up from the Keys became those workers. After enough of them gathered in West Grove, Mr. Stirrup laid out Charles Avenue, slightly out of true east-west coordinates.

That’s why this is the very 1st street in Miami. Which is why Charles Avenue was designated a Historic Roadway by the City of Miami.

When the Brown House was reconstructed, the E.W.F. Stirrup House became the oldest house on the block.

I take absolutely no solace for being right all along. Right from the get-go I called this a case of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. I predicted that the developer was hoping a hurricane would knock it down because he was quoted in the Miami media as saying that he would rebuild if that happened. Just substitute termites and wood rot for hurricane and you’ve got the picture.

If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I’ve been writing about West Grove for the past 7 years. Now, all of a sudden, it’s become très chic to write about Coconut Grove. The New Tropic has been all over it lately. In one recent article I couldn’t help but notice a new name attached to the reconstruction of the Stirrup House. I’ve never seen that name mentioned in connection of the Stirrup House before. However, it’s a name I recently heard in connection to a new Coconut Grove rumour that I am currently trying to chase down. Stay tuned on that.

I haven’t Googled the topic of the E.W.F. Stirrup House in a while because I was the only one writing about it. During the research for this article, to see whether there was something new I had missed, I was gratified to discover a website called Stirrup Family Legacy. Because I didn’t want to edit this, here’s the entire ABOUT page:

This collaborative effort was born in the social media space
following an inspired Facebook discussion among a few family members.
While aware that our family story is already in the public domain and
has been for some time, we acknowledged that the telling of our family
story varied greatly and was regrettably unknown to many– particularly
to those most needing to hear it. We came to an agreement as a family
and decided to act–as a family, for our family.

We agreed that our family story is a classic American immigrant tale;
one that is deeply rooted in the American dream.; one that is both
exemplary and extraordinary; one that deserves to be told; and one that
should rightfully be told by the Stirrup family.

The goals for the Stirrup Family Legacy are threefold. First, our
website is a means of preserving the Stirrup Family Legacy while
increasing the digital footprint of the Stirrup family story. We are
creating a lasting tribute to Stirrups who have passed on, and a living
legacy for current and future generations of Stirrups.

Second, we want to promote, through digital media and deeds, the core Stirrup Family Values that were lived and bestowed to us by our beloved patriarch Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, Sr. and Charlotte Jane Stirrup, our beloved matriarch. The values are these: commitment to FAMILY; commitment to EDUCATION; commitment to SERVICE; commitment to COMMUNITY; commitment to ENTREPRENEURSHIP; commitment to PHILANTHROPY; and commitment to CREATIVITY.

Finally, our web presence is also a means to unite our family with
the aid of the web–a virtual and ongoing family reunion that convenes
regularly in cyberspace. We created a family community where connection
and exchange of ideas, information, resources, and love can happen.

We thank you for finding us and invite all who arrive here to visit
often, contribute, become involved in our initiatives and above all,
spread the word!   S<3

As I have stated many times: The purpose of my campaign to restore the E.W.F. Stirrup House was about much more than the house. It was also to burnish the legacy of Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, a man way ahead of his time. During the Jim Crow years he made a fortune, but more importantly he made a home and neighbourhood for thousands of Bahamians and their descendants. The fact that there is still a cohesive Black enclave — in the middle of one of the most exclusive Zip Codes in the country — is a testament to this visionary. In the vast and ugly history of Race Relations in this country, Coconut Grove is the exception that proves the rule.

Animation: May 11, 2016, when more of the east wall still existed.

COMING SOON: Who is to blame for the
destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?

The Not Now Silly Newsroom plans to name names.

Raking Muck in the Big Miami ► Unpacking The Writer

An app that allows me to pretend
I’m being sketched on the beach.

Hold on, dear readers! It’s that time of the month when I pull back the curtain like Toto did to the Wizard of Oz and reveal a bit more of myself. AUNTY EM!!! AUNTY EM!!!

But first, A NOT NOW SILLY NEWSROOM ALERT: Further to The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse, my 2-part investigative report from last week: While [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff has yet to answer any of my 11 questions, I did get an apology from the Miami Parking Authority and a confirmed time and date for a meeting with CEO Art Noriega. Hopefully I can answer some of the Charles Street neighbours’ questions afterwards.

Right after The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse was published Friends of Merrie Christmas Park reminded me of When Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff Lied To My Face. So I wrote up that exciting episode as well and posted it here a few days later. It’s all part of my relentless campaign to elect ABT – Anybody But Teresa in Miami’s upcoming District 2 election. Maybe I should start a PAC and then buy some radio adverts. But, since I can’t afford that, why not join my facebookery of the same name? Trust me, you’ve done worse things in your life.

Nine years ago, when I moved from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, back to ‘Merka, the land of my birth, the last thing I figured I’d be doing is getting involved in ‘Merkin politics. I lived in Canada for 35 years — more than twice as long as I lived in the States — taking out Canadian citizenship in the process. To become a citizen of Canada I had to swear an oath to Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and assigns. In that oath I swore that I would not serve in the armed forces of another country, nor would I vote in their elections. While it’s an oath I take seriously, once I got down here in Florida I was inexorably drawn into ‘Merkin politics. 
My political foray began as Aunty Em Ericann, my alter ego when I was writing for NewsHounds, the motto of which is “We watch Fox so you don’t have to.” I looked at Aunty Em as performance art, which I carried on for years. Being Aunty Em freed up my writing style considerably. She threw out a lot of the rules of writing and started inventing her own words and lexicon, a tradition I continue here and on the facebookery.

I wrote so many columns for NewsHounds that sometimes, when I’m researching the Friday Fox Follies for PoliticusUSA, I trip over an article of mine that I don’t even remember writing. However, they always make me laugh, which is my primary purpose in life: making myself laugh. If I can make myself laugh with my own writing, then maybe you will too. The supreme compliment, as far as I’m concerned, is “That was funny.”

I still think one of my funniest columns for NewsHounds is retold in The Day I Shook Hands With Glenn Beck ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be. Your mileage may vary.

The E.W.F. Stirrup House continues to rot away in
the hands of a rapacious developer. This is what
nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect looks like.
As my longtime readers know — but I pick up Newbies alla time — my ongoing project has been my 5-years-and-counting source of fascination, the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House in Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida. Every story I’ve written about Coconut Grove has been a direct outgrowth of my continued research of Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, his place in the late 1880s, and how he created a place that was, at one time, unique in this country.

I’ve written so much about him that I won’t repeat any of it today, but take a gander at Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past to see why it’s important to save his legacy, Then read Shocker!!! E.W.F. Stirrup House Plans Are Finally On File to see how badly this house, so important to the history of Coconut Grove, has been mismanaged.

Not Now Silly explores the historic Coconut Grove Colour Line:
Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins; Part I; Part II; Part III

As usual, I digress. I was talking about Miami politics. There was a time — and not all that long ago — I couldn’t have told you where District 2 was. Now I have people calling me up to test the waters for a run as Commissioner in District 2. Whether I really want to be involved in the District 2 race, I’m still being inexorably drawn in. So far I have only thrown my weight behind Anybody But Teresa. If, at any time, I come out in favour of a candidate, you’ll be the first to know.

Lately, I’ve also been getting more tips from sources who wish to remain anonymous. It takes a long time to nurture a secret source. So many people have been burned by journalists before. Occasionally, before my sources share their tip, they tell me how they’ve been burned. However, my sources trust that OFF THE RECORD truly means OFF THE RECORD. That’s how I get people to talk.

It takes time to chase down these tips and not all of them pan out. F’rinstance, The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse, took a year’s worth of research, some of which included just sitting in parking lots observing for hours on end. At the time I didn’t even know I’d be writing an article about parking. Someone who read that story alerted me to an even bigger story of potential skulduggery and malfeasance. If true, this is EXPLOSIVE!!! This source has been solid on every tip so far, but getting to the truth of this one could be difficult. First I need to know which sewer to start dredging. As they say on the Tee Vee Tubery, STAY TUNED.
Not Now Silly set a new, all time record for readers in January, 2015.
NOT NOW SILLY HOUSEKEEPING: I know, I know, I know . . . I keep promising a new, improved Not Now Silly Newsroom, but what can I tell you at this point? I’m keeping up my end of the bargain by posting stories that my readers want to CLICK on. I no longer know what’s holding things up on the end of my Web Master.

To think this started as a casual conversation in July that began, “How can I monetize my web site?” That’s when the suggestion was made that I’d have to jump onto a WordPress template for that to happen and, while you’re at it, you may as well buy your own domain name. I replied, as I have to others who said the same thing, “But, I don’t want to lose everything that’s been posted up to now at the Not Now Silly Newsroom.” He’s the first guy to say, “You don’t have to,” so he began the process of moving everything to the new platform and template, which I love and approved months ago. Now I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And waiting patiently, I might add.

If you have any suggestions for me in that area, I’d love to hear it. 

Lastly, Pops celebrated his 89th birthday on Valentine’s Day. He’s the reason I came to Florida. After the death of my mother almost 10 years ago he asked me if I would come down and help him. He didn’t really need taking care of. He still golfed almost every day and was totally capable of taking care of himself. However, he had no idea of the magic created in the kitchen. He couldn’t even fry an egg, let along make himself dinners.

However, every year there is less and less he can do for himself. He’s no longer driving long distances, sticking to just local runs. He stopped golfing, but still meets the boys out on the course every morning. He walks with a cane, but most of the time he’s only using it for balance, swinging it parallel to the ground. That’s why it’s dangerous to walk in front of him or behind him. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been poked already.

So there it is, the life of a writer for another month. Tune in sometime during March for another exciting episode of Unpacking the Writer, from the real files of the Not Now Silly Newsroom. In the meantime, we rejoin the regular Not Now Silly Newsfeed, already in progress.

Unpacking the Writer ► Closing Out Another Year

Crazy angles. Just like Batman.

Long-time readers of Not Now Silly know that Unpacking The Writer is a monthly feature, in which I pull back the curtain and reveal the man pulling the levers.


New readers may be unaware that this is also my clever way to remind people to click on the adverts on these pages. The few cents I get from the monthly clicks don’t even cover the cost of storing the pics I use. [Did I say “few”? I meant miniscule.] However, now that Google has lowered the price of storage, I might actually be at the break-even point. Whoopie!

No matter. While money was never the reason I started a blog, it would be nice to make a few dollars here and there for all the hard work I put into these posts. On your mark. Get set. Start clicking.

I compare myself to Superman whenever I can.

Something else new readers may not know: I had a residency for a few years at NewsHounds, the motto of which is “We watch Fox so you don’t have to.” Because I was concerned Right Wing Crazies™ might want to hunt me down, I used a nom de plume. Because I thought it was funny, that pseudonym was Aunty Em Ericann. Because that so upset Right Wing Crazies™, some of them decided to hunt me down.

It’s the circle of life.

So, the Right Wing Crazies™ hunted me down and exposed my secret identity, just like I was a superhero and they were trying to conquer the world. No one ever accused them of being Braniacs, however.

In an effort to destroy me — because he couldn’t refute my message — Johnny Dollar was stupid enough to publish details of my alternative lifestyle at his sewer because, clearly, my sex life falls under his stated rubric of CABLE NEWS TRUTH. That’s the story I tell in the very first post on this blog: Johnny Dollar has Proven Himself To Be A Very Dangerous Person.

TRUE STORY: This blog was launched to expose Mark Koldys. Therefore, if you like this blog, you have Johnny Dollar to thank for it. It’s my modest suggestion that the very best way to thank Johnny Dollar is to share my Johnny Dollar stories all across the World Wide Interwebs. Feel free to repost.

The more that people learn about Mark Koldys and Ashley Graham, the more repulsed they are. They are saddened such evil motherfuckers like Johnny Dollar and Grayhammy actually exist. They are outraged that people would do such a thing over political differences. They understand that I might be willing to forget this silly little cyber-feud — even after 3 years of relentless and mendacious attacks — except Koldys and/or Graham keep reminding me it’s time to write about them all over again. What’s funny is how they keep trying to convince people that they are the victims.

For all those reasons I ask my faithful readers to share, or trade, these blog posts with your family and friends. Here’s are some good places to start:

blackflon was once part of the Flying Monkey Squad, but became bored and
gave up his part in the feud. Maybe Mark Koldys & Ashley Graham will take a clue.

I guess I’m just nostalgic for the earliest days of this blog. While it started with the mission to destroy Johnny Dollar, I’ve branched out considerably since then.

For the first year — to keep the continuity and to bring along my NewsHound fans — this blog was slapped with the unweildy title of Headly Westerfield’s “Aunty Em Ericann” Blog, which I got tired of typing. A year ago, April 1st, I simplified it to Not Now Silly, the URL I had chosen a year earlier. It occurs to me that I’ve not told that story here:

When I was originally setting up this blog I was asked to come up with a URL. I knew that it was something that I’d have to live with for a while, so I typed one possibility after another. They were either already taken, or just seemed stupid when I stared at it long enough. I was just starting to get frustrated when Pops called me from the other room. “Not Now Silly” is what my fingers automatically typed. Then I hit enter. It was as good as any URL, I suppose and, just like every problem, I was over-thinking it. 

For some reason Keg tried it in blue before we settled on sepia.

When I decided to rename the blog last year, I reverted to that URL. Keg designed a logo I that I love, based on a pic I found on the innertubes.

To blow my own horn: I’m most proud of my investigative writing on Coconut Grove. Back when I was still disguised as Aunty Em, I wrote my first blog posts on the Charles Avenue Historical Marker. Accidentally stumbling across that marker led me to all my other reporting on Coconut Grove, from the Demolition by Neglect of the E.W.F. Stirrup House; to the quiet racism that led to Trolleygate; the historical racism that led to Old Smokey; right on down to documenting The Colour Line as it shifts throughout the history of Coconut Grove.

And, my Coconut Grove posts do pretty good, click-wise, because I have regular readers now who want to know what I’ve uncovered lately. However, nothing could have prepared me for the click action on my post of February 22nd, Aries Development Continues To Rape Charles Avenue, all about the illegal cutting of the trees at the E.W.F. Stirrup House. It garnered 1297 clicks in just a month, jumping to the #3 in the Not Now Silly Top Ten. Sadly that knocked one of my Johnny Dollar posts down to the #9 position.

Readers: I do it for you. Without my readers, these words would be meaningless. These last two years have been a great ride. I sure hope you’re going to stick around for the next few. Here are some videos I made that combines my love of history and my obsessive picture collecting. See you around the funny papers. Oh, and click on an advert. It won’t cost you a thing and you’ll feel better for it.

Aftermath of the Great Miami Tree Massacre

Fined $1,000 per tree or $4,000 on the Stirrup property.

“Some people say” Gino Falsetto has finally gone too far. The recent destruction of the old growth trees on the E.W.F. Stirrup property is bringing awareness of the deplorable condition Aries Development has allowed the historic 120-year old house to devolve into.

Demolition by Neglect is a thing that can be looked up on the Googalizer. Demolition by Neglect is what Gino Falsetto has done with the E.W.F. Stirrup House for the past 8 years, ever since it entered into his possession.

IRONY ALERT: Sources tell Not Now Silly that had Aries Development applied for tree removal permits, in all likelihood they would have been granted. By ignoring the law, he just brought unwanted attention to his terrible stewardship of an important Coconut Grove cultural resource. E.W.F. Stirrup was among Florida’s first Black millionaires, a man who once owned most of 33133, a Zip Code now considered one of the most exclusive in the country.

However, those accomplishments pale to this one: With his own hands, on property he owned, Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup built more than 100 houses in the area. These were sold, rented, and bartered to the growing Black families that served as the service industry for the tourist trade. That action, during Jim Crow Days, created something unique in this country. At one time Coconut Grove had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else.

The Great Coconut Grove Tree Massacre of ’14™ was supposed to have been worse than it was. There is a 5th tree on the lot that has the same florescent orange paint marker that spelled doomed the other four. It was to have come down with the rest of them but, according to my source on the scene last Thursday when it occurred, the neighbours were starting to complain loudly and the work crew stopped before the last immediately behind the Stirrup House was felled. One of those neighbours is said to have called By-Law Enforcement because they arrived early the next morning and left a citation.

It took a stump grinder all day to remove the remnants of the two trees flanking the E.W.F. Stirrup driveway.

The fine of $4,000 ($1,000 per tree) levied by the City of Miami (see citation above) will not be the only punishment. Coconut Grove Village Council Chair Javier Gonzalez tells Not Now Silly Miami has also ordered remediation on the Stirrup property. Aries Development will be forced to plant 2 trees for every tree removed. And, in 120 years, they will also be old trees just like the ones ripped down.

February 25, 2014

However, Gino Falsetto continues to prove that he’s an irresponsible corporate citizen. The picture to the right is the interior of the Bicycle Shop, that Aries Development took possession of on January 15th. More about that in The Coconut Grove Playhouse Deal Begins to Unfold, post and what that means for the community. However, this construction site has been left open and unprotected as of yesterday.

Beyond those doors is an alley that a lot of the students use as a short cut to Thomas Avenue or the A&M school. Kids being kids could start exploring the property and get hurt. This reporter had no trouble walking inside.

Gino Falsetto knows the laws about cutting down trees, just like he knows the laws about protecting the public from unsafe construction sites. He’s a long-time developer, for eff’s sake!!! All this proves is that no matter how often the City of Miami cites his company, Gino Falsetto will do exactly what he wants in Coconut Grove.

Imagine a child wandering in here:

The Bicycle Shop The Latest In The Cultural Plunder of Coconut Grove

The Coconut Grove Playhouse before the hoarding was fixed

Recent news trickling out of Miami-Dade County has exposed more backroom machinations concerning the Coconut Grove Playhouse and — appearing for the very first time in any of the negotiations — The Bicycle Shop. 

Before getting too deeply into the weeds, this news proves that once again the ultimate stakeholders — the citizens of Coconut Grove and taxpayers of Miami — were played for dupes. All decisions concerning the Playhouse’s future have already been set in stone, without any public input whatsoever. Furthermore, not all those decisions have been made public yet, such as the ultimate design. 

There was a time I was ambivalent about the Coconut Grove Playhouse. I vaguely understood it to be mired in scandal and controversy. However, my cursory research showed that it was one of those things that served White Coconut Grove and I was researching the unique history of Black Coconut Grove. I was already committed to saving the historic, 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House; I didn’t have time for another Coconut Grove boondoggle.

My Trolleygate series proved why I need to follow all anonymous tips to see where they ultimately lead. It’s all interconnected in ways I could never have imagined when I started this research 5 years ago. The Stirrup House is catercorner to the rear of the Playhouse, just across the
street from the Charles Avenue historical marker. Oddly enough it’s been empty and undergoing Demolition by Neglect just about as long as the Playhouse has been shuttered. However, proximity and similar fates were not all that connected the two properties. I have since found two important links between Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup and the Coconut Grove Playhouse that finally placed it on my radar screen.

The Charles Avenue historical marker with the E.W.F. Stirrup House

The first goes all the way back to the 1920s and, to understand it, a small history lesson is in order. At that time E.W.F. Stirrup was one of the unlikeliest Movers and Shakers of a nascent Coconut Grove tourist industry. Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup was a Black man who, through hard work and a good business sense, became one of the Grove’s largest landowners and one of Florida’s first Black millionaires. His own house on Charles Avenue, which looked out over his holdings, was a 2-story showpiece, in a 1 story Conch house neighbourhood.

Together, with the other Movers & Shakers of the Grove, Stirrup must have anticipated reaping a financial windfall when, in the early 1920s, they commissioned The Bright Plan, the first urban renewal plan ever devised for Coconut Grove. Had the Bright Plan been implemented, Coconut Grove would have become the jewel of South Florida. A long boulevard with fountains down the middle would have led to an ornately appointed Coconut Grove City Hall, located approximately where Cocowalk is nowadays. All the designs of the buildings and fountains were based on a Mediterranean style. The Charles, Franklin, and Williams Avenue corridor would have become a golf course and the neighbourhood now known as West Grove would have been lost.

On the planning maps “Coloredtown,” would have been pushed to “the other side of the tracks,” just like in every other city in ‘Merka. That it didn’t happen is one of the things that makes Coconut Grove unique in this country. While Coconut Grove had its own Colour Line circling the traditional Black neighbourhood, it did not include railroad tracks.

However, it was not to be. Before the Bright Plan could be implemented, the Florida land boom went bust. By 1925 the words “Florida real estate” had became a national joke, so much so that George S. Kaufman’s Broadway musical-comedy The Cocoanuts revolved around swampland, tourism, and Irving Berlin tunes. Starring the Marx Brothers, it was set in Cocoanut Grove [note the “a,” the original spelling before amalgamation] and was a huge hit. The 1929 movie of the same name, with the same Marx Brothers, further cemented the town’s reputation.

A page from The Bright Plan shows the grand boulevard from Biscayne
Bay to a Coconut Grove City Hall. The odd shape in the upper-left is
where Coloredtown would have moved had this plan been implemented.

After the Bright Plan fell apart (younger) Miami annexed (older) Coconut Grove, including all of West Grove, or Coloredtown, or Black Grove, or Kebo, the African name given by the original Bahamian residents.

And, that almost didn’t happen either. Some White folk — among them some of those same Movers and Shakers that didn’t get rewarded financially when the Bright Plan died — lobbied against including West Grove in the boundaries of the new Miami.

It was fairly common in this country, as towns expanded and new areas
annexed, to exclude any of the small Black enclaves that had developed here and
there. The mere presence of Black folk could depress property values (and still does, for that matter). Whenever possible annexation occurred around these small Black enclaves until they were eventually swallowed up by the city.

That’s because — no matter where you go and no matter the era — the Movers and Shakers are, essentially, the monied and propertied of a given area. What Movers and Shakers generally want is to acquire more money and property, in order to become bigger Movers and Shakers. The Coconut Grove Movers and Shakers were no different. It was thought not having a Black area would make the new Miami more attractive for development, rewarding those who held property in Coconut Grove.

When Miami decided to annex West Grove along with the rest of Coconut Grove, a smaller group of those Movers and Shakers were already building their own lily White city of Coral Gables, just next door to Coconut Grove. The ugly historical fact is that the creation of Coral Gables was White Flight; a reaction to the Kebo neighbourhood of Bahamians, who could not be dislodged because the land was Black-owned, all due to the hard work of E.W.F.

A White city could more easily control the movements of Black folk and their presence in Coral Gables was severely restricted. Right into the ’70s (according to anecdotal reports from a 73-year old who has lived in the same house on Charles Avenue his entire life), one needed ‘papers’ to be Black in Coral Gables. This usually amounted to a letter from your employer. However, if you couldn’t produce one, you’d be arrested for vagrancy and everyone in West Grove knew it.

To this day Coral Gables is 98% White. That doesn’t happen by accident.

Statue of George Merrick,
founder of Coral Gables,
outside Coral Gables
City Hall

Related reading:

No Skin In The Game is a
series looking into some of
the disparities between
Coconut Grove and Coral
Gables, Florida

Part One looks at a protest
against Trolleygate aimed
by the citizens of Coconut
Grove to land at a debate
for mayor of Coral Gables
in order to bring awareness
to the controversy.

Part Two is a continuation
of the evening in which our
intrepid reporter daydreams
about the founding of
Coral Gables.

Part Three is all about the
exception that proves the
rule; how Coral Gables
allowed a Black conclave
within its boundaries to
house its service workers.

Which brings us to the Coconut Grove Playhouse. 

In the mid-’20s, while George Merrick was building his lily White Coral Gables and Miami was annexing Black and White Coconut Grove, one item from the Bright Plan finally got built. E.W.F. Stirrup sold a large parcel of land on the northeast corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue on which a developer could build the Coconut Grove Theater, now the Coconut Grove Playhouse, in the same Mediterranean style dictated in the Bright Plan.

There’s one other thing that links the E.W.F. Stirrup House to the Playhouse and that’s Gino Falsetto. Falsetto is the rapacious developer who arrived in the hot Florida real estate market after walking away from a string of bankrupt restaurants in the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, area.

It’s an open question whether Falsetto became a Miami Real Estate Mover and Shaker on the backs of the Canadian taxpayers, his vendors, and the employees from his restaurants. All lost money — estimated to be more than $1,000,000 all told — when the Canadian government seized the physical assets of the eateries. Falsetto walked away, allowing the companies to go bankrupt. How much money did Falsetto pocket? The answer to that may never be known. What is known is that bankruptcy appears to be a tactic of Falsetto’s, which has served him well so far, as you will see.

Seemingly from Falsetto’s first arrival in the over-heated Miami real estate market, his various companies have been tangled up in one lawsuit after another. However, for unexplained reasons, he seems to keep falling up. Eventually he (Aries Development) acquired property at Main Highway and Franklin Avenue, large enough to propose building the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums. During the permitting process there were three major objections from neighbourhood groups, all of which Aries promised to satisfy:

► The rich White folk on the east side of Main Highway — in Camp Biscayne, one of the oldest gated communities in south Florida — didn’t want to lose their spectacular sunsets for which they paid several million dollars for. They wanted the height of the condo building scalled back. Done. The multi-use condo complex was limited to 5 stories and stepped back as it rose, so it didn’t present a huge facade to Main Highway;

► The White drinkers at the venerable Taurus Bar were upset that they might lose their drinking hole, one of the only bars in Coconut Grove with free parking. TO BE FAIR: The Taurus dates back to AT LEAST 1906, when it was a tea room. Regardless, the developer heard the protests. Done! The Taurus is still there (although a possibly non-conforming awning was being built when this reporter visited on December 17th);

The lay of the land:

Gino Falsetto has sewn up a number of properties along Main Highway and Charles
Avenue. Now, to release his claim to the Coconut Grove Playhouse, he is being
given ownership of the Bicycle Shop, with valuable frontage on Main Highway

► The Black residents of West Grove were concerned that the development would threaten the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House.

In order to obtain its building permit Aries made certain promises and representations to preserve and restore the E.W.F. Stirrup House, either as a community museum and resource center, or a Bed and Breakfast. Anecdotal memories differ and, sadly, no one seems to be able to produce the actual meeting minutes in which the condo project was approved.

No matter what the promise MAY have been, it has been broken. Since getting his grubby little hands on it almost 9 years ago, Gino Falsetto has neglected the Stirrup House, except for some [allegedly] illegal interior demolition and destruction. This precious community resource, believed to be the 2nd oldest house in Miami, has been allowed to undergo Demolition by Neglect. Aries Development has proven to be a terrible steward of this historic 120-year old house, like no other in the neighbourhood.

IT GETS WORSE: In the same deal in which Falsetto acquired the lease on the Stirrup House, he also scooped up two double-size lots on the north side of Charles, across from the Stirrup House. However, there appears to be some subsequent irregularity — some say illegality — with those two properties.

Falsetto traded two units within the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums — the monstrosity he built behind the Stirrup House — for outright ownership of the two lots assessed at $87,615 and the 50-year lease on the Stirrup House. Heinz Dinter tells the next part of the story:

Gino Falsetto finds himself a real estate appraiser who dares to value the two lots heavy with weed and grass at $1,000,000. With the appraisal in hand Falsetto finds a daring banker who loans Gino Falsetto $700,000 — all so legal in accordance to the 70% loan to equity ratio. What a coup!

That’s not the end of the dramatic plot. Gino Falsetto defaults on the loan, the bank forecloses with a $720,546.28 judgment in hand and none other than Pierre Heafey’s Heagrand Inc buys the land in the foreclosure sale for $200,100. [Editors note: Pierre Heafey and Gino Falsetto are partners in other companies.]

The curtain rises on the last act. Falsetto forms a new company, 3227 Charles LLC, and that new company buys the two lots from Heafey for $215,800.

The bottom line must be called a stunning performance: Gino Falsetto gives up two condominiums worth $419,050 and in return is the sole owner of two vacant lots assessed at $87,615, but possibly worth many times more depending on the neighborhood’s future, and some half a million dollars in cold cash in his pockets compliments of the American taxpayer (the bank loan was insured by FANNIE MAE).

The Bicycle Shop is the latest, and possibly last, piece in the Coconut Grove
Playhouse puzzle. In the latest deal — struck in the backrooms between the big
boys — Gino Falsetto’s Aries Development gets ownership of this property (and
a nominal $15,000) to relinquish all claims to the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Got that? Foreclosure auctions are supposed to be at arm’s length. How is it that a company owned by Gino Falsetto managed to get its hands back on the same property after a company owned by Gino Falsetto defaulted on the original loan?

I’m not a lawyer, but that can’t be legal.

During the same period that Falsetto was scooping up valuable and culturally important Coconut Grove real estate through dubious means, he (through Aries) also loaned the defunct board of the defunct Coconut Grove Playhouse some defunct money. Holding a financial lien on the Playhouse, Aries has scuttled deal after deal for those who were trying to renovate and reopen the Playhouse. That is, until recently.

Which brings us full circle: When the news leaked that there may FINALLY be a deal to renovate the Playhouse, people were stunnded to discover it involved giving the Bicycle Shop to Aries Development. This small building at the northeast end of the Playhouse parking lot — which really was a bicycle shop a long time ago — and the nominal amount of $15,000 will be given to Aries Development to satisfy all claim on the Playhouse.

Currently the alley immediately to the north of of the Bicycle Shop [at right above] is the end of the demilitarized zone in Coconut Grove. Casual pedestrians tend not to walk any further south, unless they are walking on the OTHER side of Main Highway. The newly opened restaurant Acropolis, on the other side of that alley, is as far south as people tend to walk. Those who arrive at the restaurants on the ground floor of the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums — just a block south — tend to arrive by car.

The Bicycle Shop is piece of Main Highway frontage that will be a goldmine once the Playhouse reopens. It will have a Playhouse on one side, restaurants on the other, with The Barnacle Historic State Park and some of the most expensive houses in all of Florida in heavily gated communities right across the street.

It’s an insult to the memory of E.W.F. Stirrup that Gino Falsetto and Aries Development will be rewarded for their avariciousness and Demolition by Neglect of the E.W.F Stirrup House. 

Before Miami-Dade gives away a piece of property worth potentially millions of dollars over the long run, why doesn’t the county see to it that Aries fulfill the promises it has already made to the people of Coconut Grove and taxpayers of Miami?

History Is Complicated ► Save The E.W.F. Stirrup Playhouse!

The Coconut Grove Playhouse anchors one corner of
Charles Avenue, where it dead-ends at Main Highway

History is complicated, real estate history even more so. At one time all the land at the east end of Charles Avenue in Coconut Grove was owned by E.W.F. Stirrup, one of Florida’s first Black millionaires. In fact, Mr. Stirrup once owned most of Coconut Grove, the irony being 33133 is now considered one of ‘Merka’s most exclusive area codes. To honour history I propose the Coconut Grove Playhouse name be changed to the E.W.F. Stirrup Theater.

Follow along: Back in the day, when a man of Mr. Stirrup’s complexion could not get into most movie theaters in the country, E.W.F. Stirrup owned the land on which the Coconut Grove Playhouse now sits. In order to bring culture to Coconut Grove, Mr. Stirrup sold the land on which the Coconut Grove Theater was built in 1927. While the movie theater was practically on his doorstep, that didn’t guarantee that Mr. Stirrup could enter the theater during Jim Crow days. How close was it? Watch:

Less than 300 feet separate the front door of the E.W.F. Stirrup House
from the box office of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, just catercorner


Mr. Stirrup may have been the exception that proves the rule.

It’s quite possible that a man of Mr. Stirrup’s means could have crossed The Color Line easily. It’s within the realm of possibility that he could have walked the 250 feet, from his front door to the Coconut Grove Theater’s box office, and buy a ticket at a time when other Black folks couldn’t. That would have put Mr. Stirrup in the same category as Dana A. Dorsey, who was Miami’s first Black millionaire. Mr. Dorsey was allowed to cross The Color Line as the only Black man allowed to ride on the elevators at Burdines department store. This during the same period when other Black folk couldn’t even try on the clothes in the store to see if they fit. History is complicated.

Flagler Street in the ’40s, with Burdine’s in the background

Like Stirrup, Dana Dorsey made his fortune with real estate. At one time Dorsey was one of Colored Town’s [Overtown‘s original name] largest landholders. When the William Burdine ran into money troubles, he turned to Dana Dorsey for a loan, which allowed the store to survive an economic downturn. From that day on Dorsey was the only Black person who could ride the elevators at Burdines of Flagler Street, until the store was fully integrated after his death. The exception that proved the rule. History is complicated.

SLIGHT TANGENT: How Overtown Got Its Name:


Henry Flagler’s railroad created south Florida

Overtown was one of two Colored Towns in Miami. The older, and smaller Colored Town was a part of Coconut Grove, which predates Miami. Kebo, the name the Bahamians gave their West Grove neighbourhood, eventually became hemmed in by White neighbourhoods. Black folk looking for housing had to look elsewhere, and many settled in the newer Colored Town to the north. This area was designated by Henry Morrison Flagler. As he did through every town he rammed his railroad, Flagler designated the northwest sector to be a Black neighbourhood. This was not as progressive as it sounds. These Black enclaves had a never-ending supply of workers who did the actual backbreaking labour of building a railroad through a swamp. History is complicated.

This later Colored Town became the business and entertainment district for the growing Black community that the railroad brought. Later it provided the hotels where people like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington could find a hotel room after playing for the rich White folk, because they were not allowed to stay in the hotels in Miami and Miami Beach. History is complicated.

Between Coconut Grove in the south and Colored Town in the north is where the fledgling town of Miami grew up. When the folks in Coconut Grove talked about going to the Black entertainment district, they said, “Let’s go Over Town” and the name stuck. The city trying to designate the area Washington Heights,
despite it being on the same sea level as the rest of Miami. Eventually everyone gave in and it became known officially on maps as Overtown. History is complicated.


One other thing links the E.W.F. Stirrup House with the Coconut Grove Playhouse and that’s the rapacious developer I have profiled here repeatedly, Gino Falsetto. Through a property swap, and later what appears to be a shady real estate deal, Falsetto’s Aries Development Group has got its corporate grubby mitts on a 50-year lease on the E.W.F. Stirrup House, although the house must remain in the family in perpetuity.

In an odd coincidence [and everything traced to Falsetto is
filled with odd coincidences] Aries Group also has his fingers in the Coconut Grove Playhouse pie, and has
scuttled more than one previous deal to renovate the Playhouse. Whatever backroom deal the town big wigs have already decided upon, Gino Falsetto is still an impediment to any Playhouse restoration plan unless he signs on.

Ever since Falsetto got his hands on the property he’s done virtually nothing with the E.W.F. Stirrup House, except to allow it to undergo Demolition by Neglect. Last week I posted a video I was able to take of allegedly illegal work the inside of the Stirrup House because the property was left open and the house was left unlocked. There was no building permit, either prominently posted outside as the law demands, or hidden inside the house.

I had been assured that a building permit had since been obtained, but a week later it was not posted on the property. I am starting to wonder if they truly have a building permit. I’m starting to wonder whether they truly have a brain. When I returned on the 27th, the front door on the right was left unlocked again, which you can see in this video:

It’s almost like Gino Falsetto is hoping some accident will befall the house, before he actually has to spend the money to restore it LIKE HE PROMISED 8 YEARS AGO!!! During that time Falsetto managed to find the money and energy to build the monstrosity behind the Stirrup House, the multimillion dollar, mixed use development, with fancy restaurants and valet parking, known officially as the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums. Yet, Falsetto has only recently spent the $10 bucks to buy some plywood to board up the upper windows, which had been open to the elements for the last 8 years. Oh, wait. Never mind. That looks like a piece of scrap. There’s no better proof that Gino Falsetto has been a bad steward of an historic community asset. What’s worse, as I keep pointing out, every infraction committed by Falsetto’s workmen is cited against the actual owners of the property, Stirrup Properties, LLC.

One again watch another video which shows how proximate the Coconut Grove Playhouse is to the E.W.F. Stirrup House and recall how both these structures are linked through both Mr. Stirrup and Gino Falsetto:


That’s why I now propose to rename the Playhouse the E.W.F. Stirrup Theater.
Save the E.W.F. Stirrup House and Theater!!!


Is Gino Falsetto Breaking The Law Again? ► A Charles Avenue Update

The Charles Avenue historical marker with the
E.W.F. Stirrup House across the street.

It’s always been about the E.W.F. Stirrup House. My research into Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup has led to many interesting tangents, none of which would I have ever heard about had it not been for Mr. Stirrup.

Among those tangents include my series No Skin In The Game, documenting 90 years of Coral Gables racism; my investigations into [allegedly corrupt] Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, who managed to build himself a dog park and a traffic circle, not to mention the undying enmity of his West Grove constituents; and my ongoing reporting on Trolleygate, which culminated in a hearing at the Dade-County Courthouse on Friday. However, I would never have come across those stories had I not accidentally encountered the Charles Avenue historical marker in February of 2009. That was the day I first set eyes upon the E.W.F. Stirrup House and fell in love.

That’s the very same day I started researching the history of the house, which quickly led to the discovery that E.W.F. Stirrup was a remarkable man — decades ahead of his time. Mr. Stirrup created an area unique to this entire country. Because of his efforts Coconut Grove at one time had the highest percentage of Black home ownership in the entire country, which might be the only reason West Grove has remained intact all these years.

Elsewhere in ‘Merka, Black neighbourhoods were comprised of a majority of renters, with absentee landlords. This is why I-95 could be punched through the middle of Overtown, or why I-75 totally obliterated Paradise Valley, in my home town of Detroit.

Yet, sadly, Mr. Stirrup’s legacy is barely known to the people of Coconut Grove. If they know the name at all it’s only because of the E.W.F. Stirrup Elementary School. However, that’s not Mr. Stirrup being honoured by having a school named after him. That’s his son. Not that he doesn’t deserve to be commemorated, because he was a man with a legacy in his own right. However, his father was far more significant to the history of Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida and the United States. This is not hyperbole. Read my previous chapters on the E.W.F. Stirrup House to understand why Mr. Stirrup was important and why it’s imperative to save his house.

Even though the E.W.F. Stirrup House has been designated historic by the City of Miami, a rapacious developer got his hands on the Stirrup House 8 years ago and has been allowing it to undergo Demolition by Neglect ever since. Aries Development is the name of the company and and Gino Falsetto is the name of the man who runs it. Falsetto is Canadian, not that I hold that against him because so am I. However, Falsetto left a string of bankrupt restaurants behind in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on which the Canadian taxpayers lost an estimated $1,000,000. And, of course, all the employees and vendors lost money. However, shortly afterwards Falsetto landed on his feet as one of Miami Real Estate’s big wheelers and dealers. Then he set his eyes on Coconut Grove and built the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums on Main Highway, immediately behind the E.W.F. Stirrup House. And that’s when the E.W.F. Stirrup House began to fall apart.

One wonders if the Canadian taxpayers provided Gino Falsetto with the grub stake to buy into the always over-heated Miami real estate market.

During Falsetto’s property-trading he managed to acquire a 50-year lease on the E.W.F. Stirrup House, the ownership of which still remains in the Stirrup Family. At the time he acquired the lease, Falsetto promised to restore the house. In the 4 years I have been visiting the house, and the 4 years prior to that, he’s done virtually nothing, except to make things worse by allowing it to undergo Demolition by Neglect.

It was just a year ago, August 18th, that I got into the house for the first time. I documented that in a Not Now Silly post called Unpacking Coconut Grove ► Part Four ► Open Houses and Broken Laws. Compare the pics in that post to the current look of the interior in this video taken on August 16, 2013:

All of that interior destruction is apparently taking place without the benefit of a plan for historic restoration, which I am told must be approved by the Miami Historical Board before any work is to take place. The work is also being done without benefit of a building permit, which must be posted prominently on the property while work is going on and until the completion of the renovation.

A wide-open gate on the Stirrup property says, “C’mon in.”

Let me tell you a little something about getting inside the E.W.F. Stirrup House. Last Friday was the first time I ever surreptitiously entered the house, but the two previous times I was invited in by workmen.

There was a time I used to wander onto the Stirrup property at will. There was a very large hole in the chain link fence at the extreme south-east corner of the property. After I started posting pictures of the property (that had obviously been taken from on the property), I discovered the hole had been patched. Once that hole was fixed I stopped slipping through that gap. Nor did I ever slip through the gap between the two front gates, which are chained together so loosely that Rush Limbaugh could squeeze through. However, I have encountered those gates wide open on many subsequent visits. When the gate is left wide open I take that as a personal invitation to document Gino Falsetto’s shoddy stewardship of a precious Miami historic site.

On August 16th, when I arrived at 7 a.m., the gate was wide open and had clearly been left that way overnight. I wandered onto the property and took several pictures before I headed off to my next appointment. However, I noted something on that visit that required an additional visit later to see whether my eyes were deceiving me.

When I got back to the E.W.F. Stirrup House I discovered my eyes hadn’t deceived me at all. The front door had been left open a crack all night and, at 2 in the afternoon, it was still open the same crack, which meant that there had been no workmen there in the interim. So, if an open gate says, “C’mon in,” so does an unlocked front door. My desire to save the house and protect it from idiots who have no conception of the history the house represents overrules any proprieties about property rights.

An example of some of the destruction that’s taken place inside the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

So, yesterday I a very busy boy. I spoke to a very nice woman at the City of Miami Historical Preservation office. She told me that as far as she could tell, there were no plans on file for historic preservation of 3242 Charles Avenue, aka The E.W.F. Stirrup House. However, she would have to do some more research before she could state that categorically.

Then I left a message for Peter Iglesias, who is head of the Building Department, where any building permits would have been issued for work on the E.W.F. Stirrup House. However, I suspect there is no building permit. Just like there was no building permit last year when I reported [allegedly] illegal demolition work inside the house. That file was closed without a determination. What’s crazier is that no matter how many times I called back, no one was ever able to tell me what happened to my complaint, only that it had been closed. I had a confirmation number and everything. I believe it fell into a Black hole, pun intended.

In fact, I have documented here, in an open letter to Miami, how all my previous phone messages left for City of Miami employees have all gone into the same Black hole. Miami employees never answer their phones and have never returned the phone messages I’ve left. I was shocked when Marina Novaes in the Historic Preservation office answered her phone. That was a first! She took my number and said she’d get back to me. That would also be a first.

And, just like last year, and the [allegedly] illegal demolition work inside the house, it’s invisible if and when the building inspector comes around because IT’S ALL HAPPENING INSIDE THE WALLS OF THE HOUSE, not outside. I can’t stress this enough. That’s why Gino Falsetto has been getting away with this [allegedly] illegal work. And, that’s why I took the risk and decided to enter the house. I’ve got it all documented if the City of Miami Building Department Chief Peter Iglesias wants to see what’s happening inside this historic house.

After cutting back the vines in February, they’ve not been cut since. Before
they were cut the last time, they grew 30 feet high and over the top of the house.

And, while I’m on that topic: The City of Miami by-law compliance officers need to see what’s happening behind the house, too. I’ve documented previous occasions when the property has been cited for a lack of landscaping upkeep and graffiti on the back wall. Remember that Gino Falsetto (Aries Development) is the lease-holder. However, it’s the owner, Stirrup Properties, that gets cited for all the deficiencies caused by Falsetto. Do I have to point out the obvious? The Black corporation is being blamed for the White corporation’s misdeeds.

However, Gino Falsetto seems to have learned something else: the by-law compliance officers cannot see what’s behind the house, so that area is almost never landscaped. It became a jungle, which I also documented in previous posts. It grew over 30 feet tall and part way across the roof of the house in the back, all unseen by the by-law compliance officers.

That jungle was cut back drastically in February for the first time in the 4 years I have been visiting the property. However, that had nothing to do with being cited by the city. It was in advance of a meeting of the Charles Avenue Historic Committee, on which Gino Falsetto sits. He wanted to be able to point to SOME WORK having taken place, in case people asked. However, what was done actually destroyed part of the house, as documented here.

Since then the vines have been allowed to grow unmolested again.

Say, I got an idea! Let’s start a pool and bet on how tall the vines are allowed to grow before Gino Falsetto feels he needs to impress someone else with the work he hasn’t been doing on restoring the E.W.F. Stirrup House and it gets cut back again merely for appearance sake, and not because the vines are harming a precious historic house.

Of course, if the City of Miami ever manages to inspect the inside of the E.W.F. Stirrup House and determines that Gino Falsetto has ordered illegal work, it will be Stirrup Properties, LLC, that is cited and/or fined.

Let’s face it, Gino Falsetto doesn’t care about Stirrup Properties, LLC; Coconut Grove history; or the Stirrup legacy; nor has he shown any care of the historic 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House. Falsetto is a rapacious developer who cares only about making money by developing property. In fact, having to save the Stirrup House foils Falsetto’s ultimate plan. He has managed to scoop up every bit of property surrounding the Stirrup House, including a financial stake in the Coconut Grove Playhouse. An empty lot where the Stirrup House currently sits would be far more valuable to Falsetto than this house that he’s committed to restoring. Is that why he’s allowed 8 years of Demolition by Neglect to eat away at the house? Is that why the property is left unsecured, hoping for an accident to happen?

Here are several more pictures of the state of the E.W.F. Stirrup House on August 16, 2013:

No Skin In The Game ► Part Three

History is complicated.

Little did I realize how accurate I was in intimating Coral Gables has a long history of Racism, going back to its founding. As reported in Part Two of No Skin In The Game, to this day Coral Gables has a population that is 98% White. This demographic never happens by accident. 

However, there is one Coral Gables neighbourhood that turns out to be the exception . . . the exception that proves the rule.

In my research I recently, accidentally, stumbled across something called the MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historic District. It was an odd little reference in the Sun Sentinel that caught my attention. In the article Reference Guide Lists Historic Black Sites, were mentioned Black sites across Florida, including one in 98% White Coral Gables, of all places:


MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historic District:

Bounded by Oak Avenue, Grand Avenue and Jefferson Street. The residences were built primarily in the late 1920s and 1930s in a vernacular type of architecture not seen elsewhere in Coral Gables. The styles in the district include bungalows and one-story frame “shotgun“ houses. St. Mary`s Baptist Church at 136 Frow Ave. was built in 1927.

Detail of map showing the MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historic District,
the oddly shaped triangle in blue. Everything to the south and east is Coconut
Grove. Everything north of the tracks and U.S.1 is Coral Gables.

That address puts it in the odd triangle section of Coral Gables immediately adjacent to West Coconut Grove. It’s just a little more than a block away from the Coral Gables diesel bus garage that the residents of West Grove have been saddled with.

Reading between the lines:

  • “…built primarily in the late 1920s and 1930s…” can be translated to say “this neighbourhood was created contemporaneously with the founding of Coral Gables;”
  • “…in a vernacular type of architecture not seen elsewhere in Coral Gables. The styles in the district include bungalows and one-story frame “shotgun“ houses…” translates to “built in the inexpensive and expedient Bahamian style, styles of house that would never be allowed elsewhere in hoity-toity Coral Gables, but seen in abundance in neighbouring Black Coconut Grove.”

In other words: this neighbourhood was created so the Black folk who were doing the back-breaking labour of building Coral Gables — and, later, serving Coral Gables — would have a place to live. My understanding of the racial implications was instinctive and immediate. Proving that point would be more difficult.

1913 Poster

One thing that made Coconut Grove unique in this country — aside from having the highest percentage of Black home ownership in the nation — is that the Black community in Coconut Grove was NOT on the “other side of the tracks.” Think about that expression for a moment. The “other side of the tracks” was the poor part of town, where Black enclaves originally started near the railroad tracks. That was generally an area where no decent, self-respecting White person would find themselves living, or even traveling. Black folk had far fewer choices for neighbourhoods. And, as has always been true in this country, once there were a few Blacks in an area, it became all Black over time.

While Coconut Grove didn’t have an “other side of the tracks,” it’s clear that Coral Gables did. The blue triangle on the map above (or on this interactive map) is the only area in Coral Gables that Blacks could live. South of U.S. Highway #1, which runs parallel to the railroad tracks, is the other side of the tracks if you live in Coral Gables. It may be technically a part of Coral Gables, but it’s not OF Coral Gables, if you get my meaning.

It turns out the proof I was looking for was tucked away in a book called “African American Sites in Florida” by Kevin M. McCarthy. Within I found the following:

Coral Gables

When I took pictures of George Merrick and Coral Gables City
Hall in August of 2009, who knew they would come in handy?

Coral Gables may have been the second planned community in the United States, after Washington, D.C. George E. Merrick spent much time and money designing the city, including what became the University of Miami, which opened in 1926. To promote the planned community, he used the oratorical skills of William Jennings Bryan in the mid-1920s; Bryan, who had been President Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State and a three-time Democratic Party nominee for President, gave impassioned speeches around Merrick’s fabulous Venetian Pool, encouraging visitors to buy and settle in the planned community.

The city never had a large number of blacks, and in 2000 only 3% (1,348) of the total population of 40,091 were black.

MACFARLANE HOMESTEAD SUBDIVISION HISTORIC DISTRICT is a black enclave within the city of Coral Gables. It is bordered by Oak Avenue, S. Dixie Highway (U.S.1), Brooker Street, and Grand Avenue east-northeast of the University of Miami. The district takes its name from Flora MacFarlane, who homesteaded 160 acres of land there and in Coconut Grove in 1892. Some of the houses in the district predate the expansion of the Gables in 1925 and 1926, while others were built in the 1930s at a time when blacks were not allowed to build in the wealthier parts of Coral Gables. One of the earliest structures, St. Mary’s Baptist Church, was built in 1927. Most of the homes in what is called the black Gables are small, single-story homes built from Dade County pine. Many of the blacks worked in the homes of the wealthy white residents or in the construction of such buildings as the City Hall and the Biltmore Hotel. The area is changing rapidly today, with many large homes being built.

The historic 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House,
still undergoing Demolition by Neglect

Here’s the supreme irony: Coral Gables is so proud of its little Apartheid Triangle that in 1994 it had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That’s like hiding its racism in plain sight. Now, if anyone exposes Coral Gables’ long and complicated history of racism, it can point to the MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision Historic District and claim, au contraire mon frere, it has honoured the original Black builders of Coral Gables.

Which is more than neighbouring Coconut Grove has done. Coconut Grove has continued to ignore its history. Rapacious carpetbagging developers have now taken control of some of the historic elements of Black Coconut Grove and no one seems to care.

People tell me that the E.W.F. Stirrup House is on a registry of historic city homes. I’m calling bullshit on that claim. I can find no historical designation for the E.W.F. Stirrup House by Coconut Grove, the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida, or the country. Yet E.W.F. Stirrup created a unique place in this country, which is slowly disappearing.


No Skin in the Game – Part One
No Skin in the Game – Part Two

Unveiling the One Grove Mural – A Photo and Video Essay

Dateline March 2, 2013 – Residents of West Grove get together to unveil the One Grove mural at the corner of Frow Avenue and Douglas, right next to the Coral Gables diesel bus garage, still under construction.

This first video shows the proximity of the Coral Gables diesel bus garage to the houses in the community.

Some of the festivities of the day.

Introducing myself to Laurie Cook of Urban Resurrection, the organization that spearheaded
the creation of the “One Grove” mural. Prior to this we had only spoken on the phone.

LaTasha (L) and LaToya Stirrup, great great granddaughters of E.W.F. Stirrup, were the center of attention as photographers capture them
flanking Kyle Holbrook of the MLK Community Mural Project, designer of
the mural. That’s Mr. Stirrup’s likeness in the upper-right hand corner.

At the dedication ceremony Laurie Cook invited descendants of important Coconut Grove pioneers to come up and be recognized:

Kyle Holbrook puts the final touches on the mural, a clear protective coat.

Kyle Holbrook puts the final touches on the mural, a clear protective coat.

All of those who worked on the mural were asked up to be recogized:

I loaned Mikey one of my cameras for a while. He started taking portraits of everyone.
Mikey got more people to pose for him than I did.

Portrait by Mikey.
Another portrait by Mikey.


Trolleygate Brings A Community Together

Diesel bus garage, February 27, 2013

While crews continue to build the nonconforming Coral Gables diesel bus garage, a lawsuit by West Grove residents is working its way through the court system. If the residents of the community have their way, (and why shouldn’t they?) the bus garage will never open. If Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff has his way, his constituents will get screwed . . . again.

Flier announcing tomorrow’s unveiling.

The residents of West Grove have sued to stop Coral Gables, the neighbouring town, from building its polluting bus garage in the residential neighbourhood of west Coconut Grove. Oddly enough, the border between Coral Gables and Coconut Grove is just one block west of this construction site.

However, before the residents even knew about the diesel bus garage they were already looking at the corner of Frow and Douglas for an urban renewal project. Teaming up with MLK Community Mural Project, the community decided to paint a mural on the wall of a convenience store. With the announcement of the diesel bus garage, the mural has now become a rallying point.

The design of the mural came together organically from the ground up. A survey was sent around asking neighbours three questions:

1). What symbols of the community would you like to see in a mural?

2). What elements of the community are you most proud of? 

3). What are the future dreams you wish for the community?

The wall before it had been transformed.

Kyle Holbrook, of MLK Mural, took all the suggestions and created 3 different designs for the mural, incorporating them all. The designs were then voted on, with the winning one translated to the wall in colourful paint. What had been a nondescript wall has been turned into a vibrant mural and symbol of community pride. The painting pays tribute to the original Bahamians who settled the area, as it also
honours the history and people that made the Grove what it is today.

Tomorrow afternoon at 1 the community will come together to dedicate this wonderful work of art.

One of the things I have heard several times recently, from more than one person, is how people used to just call it The Grove, or Coconut Grove. These days, however, people refer to North Grove, East Grove, West Grove, Black Grove, White Grove. The mural reflects the concept of One Grove, with a banner proclaiming that at the very top of the mural. Reunification seems to be the desire of the community and return to the idea that everybody is in this together. This is something Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff should take the time to learn, as opposed to pitting community groups against each other in order to divide and conquer. 

The wall after it had been transformed.

Close up of the center section of the mural. Grand Avenue and Charles Avenue do not actually meet, except as the two streets around which the community congregated and thrived.
Another close up.

A family visiting the mural, as the parents teach the children about their history and heritage.

Three of the important pioneers of Coconut Grove: (L to R) Father Theodore Gibson, who did so much to integrate Coconut Grove during the various Civil Rights struggles; Esther Mae Armbrister, who championed turning the Mariah Brown House into a museum and community resource, among other good works in a lifetime dedicated to serving others; E.W.F. Stirrup, whose forward thinking ideas about Black home ownership more than 120 years ago is what makes Coconut Grove a unique place in this country to this very day.

Mangos! Shotgun houses! Foliage! All symbols of Coconut Grove.

These four young ladies were among the first to show up to paint the mural. A photograph was taken of them posing with their paintbrushes, which was then incorporated into the mural.

Caribbean dancers! More foliage and shotgun houses. And, the very building on which the mural is painted.

Full circle: Young man admiring the mural within the mural.

This is a wonderful work of art which will adorn this building for many years to come. It has also become a symbol of pride for a neighbourhood coming together to fight the Coral Gables diesel bus garage.