this brief history was written by Evelyn V. Nickas, Restoration Fund Chairman
Robert Hume, carved figures depicting the four seasons of a woman's life on the tall pedestial in the middle of the fountain outside the North Hall
History of our Club
The year we were federated with the GFWC was 1924
We are all threads in an invisible tapestry. If we wish to serve the past, we must provide for the future. By restoring and preserving our heritage, we are performing a service for the generations to come. The Coral Gables Woman's Club members, with pride and dignity appeal for the generous support of caring individuals in our efforts to restore and preserve one of the few remaining historic landmarks in the City of Coral Gables. Unless we receive the assistance that is imperative for success, our "Work of Art" will be lost. The CGWC has maintained the building since we received the keys on January 9, 1937.
The coral limestone rock "Grande Dame," completed in 1936, depicts the culture, education, growth and history of Coral Gables. The histories of the City Beautiful and the CGWC blended from inception. For the building to materialize, the CGWC and its supporters raised the necessary $10,000.00 and the Federal Works Progress Administration Labor used coral rock from the City's quarry to build the historic monument on the block of land donated by the city for the purpose of the building which served as the first permanent location for the library of Coral Gables in one wing of the L-shaped building. The other wing was designated for the Clubhouse of the members who organized and operated the library since 1927. When 1,000 books were gathered and money was raised, a temporary location was provided by City Founder, George E. Merrick in the Cathedral Room of the Douglas Entrance. He came to their assistance again and contributed needed furniture and rugs for the library. Our cherished Eunice P. Merrick was the Founding Director of the Club. Club meetings were held in the Country Club of Coral Gables courtesy of Mr. Merrick who provided his help because he believed that the CGWC deserved this support.
When the building was completed, the catalog room and office of the library were financed by the Woman's Club and $1,500.00 from the City. Furnishings were purchased and the members continued their fund raising efforts, operating the library and community services from there.
The building is a premier example of Great Depression-era Moderne style architecture adapted to the Mediterranean Idiom so characteristic of our city. It was designed by a foremost architect, H. George Fink. Internationally known and prominent artists and their assistants decorated the building with their murals and carvings. In addition to the Seminole Indian Family on the back wall of the stage, restored by two club member artists. There are friezes of Roseate Spoonbills in flight with native trees and plants painted on the upper walls in the main room of the club. A renown sculptor, Robert Hume, carved figures depicting the four seasons of a woman's life in bas relief on the tall pedestal in the center of a fountain on the lawn of the side entrance. The installation of the "Lady Suzanne Tweed Portal" protective canopy, at this entrance, was approved by the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board and donated by long time member and Past President of the Club, Evelyn Nickas.
The primary entrance portal contains relief sculpture which depicts a female figure on one side representing the liberal arts. She carries a palette in one hand. A feather pen is carved into the stone on the interior doorway. The male figure on the other side, less symbolic in connotation, holds a scroll in one hand. The figures act in tandem to depict the full range of learning objectives. Each of the buttresses which appear intermittently across the building relief carvings of native animals, pelicans and frogs. Local fauna and flora are included with Florida fruits, pineapples and plants carved in native stone at the top of doorways and pillars in the clubhouse area between the main building and the south wing built for the library. The wing has varied designs painted on the rafters in the high cathedral ceiling. This building is "one of a kind" and deserves to be preserved because of the art artifacts and history of this highly significant architectural building. The City of Coral Gables recognizes the traditions that are interwoven through our history and continue their valuable support to preserve this honored legacy. As of March 27, 1990, the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Primary entrance portal with relief sculputres on either side representing the liberal arts