Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Villa Serena- Saved from the Wrecking Ball

Villa Serena was added to the Miami Register of Historic Places by the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board in December 2007. Constructed in 1913 Villa Serena is a notable example of Mediterranean Revival style architecture, built of steel-reinforced poured concrete and designed by August Geiger, an influential early Miami architect who had also designed the Miami Woman's Club, and the Dade County Courthouse (with Anthony Ten Eyck Brown). It was about to be sold to a foriegn investor that intended to tear it down to build yet another modern mansion on the bay. Apparently, a new buyer has since appeared that is interested in preserving and renovating it.

This palatial estate is located between Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Bay, at 3115 Brickell Avenue, and takes full advantage of both the street and the bay with facades of equal prominence and architectural beauty. Its Mediterranean characteristics include the prominent courtyard formed by the extension of the wings, the low, tiled hipped roofs and prominent parapet, intricate cast ornament in a basket weave pattern, and decorative details such as wrought iron railings and decorative tile imported from Cuba.

Villa Serena was the winter home of famed orator, lawyer, and three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and his wife Mary. Bryan is best known as the prosecutor in the famous Scopes Monkey trial opposing the teaching of evolution. However, he was also a life-long peace advocate and a staunch supporter of women's suffrage and worker's rights. Bryan, a fundamentalist Christian, became a key figure in Miami, as a spokesman for George Merrick's Coral Gables Corporation, and as a lay leader of the Presbyterian church.
In Miami, he hosted "Sunday schools" that served largely as a tourist attraction in the former Royal Palm Park, now Bayfront Park, that drew about 16,000 listeners. Coral Gables founder George Merrick paid Mr. Bryan $100,000 to speak daily at the Venetian Pool on topics such as the value of Florida real estate and he is credited with the idea of creating a local pan-American university: the University of Miami.


Dayngr said...

Great to find your blog! Adding you to my blogroll.

Squathole said...

This blog seems to have become a Miami Memory itself.

Dave said...

Dayngr: Thanks for the post. Hope you enjoy the site.

squathole: can't always add something but I try!

Laureen W said...

My good friend Brandon W grew up in that house!! He took me on a tour just before it was sold to Adrian Arscht. There were parts of it that we couldn't go through as it was not safe, but his boyhood bedroom was still in tact. Wow.