Sunday, May 24, 2009

Venetian Pool Open Again!


Being so bummed out by the tearing down of St. Stephen's Church, I thought I do a new post on something very positive and uplifting. The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables is once again open to the public after a complete renovation that has left the site still looking like it did so many years before. Thank you Coral Gables, it is one of the few things left in Dade County that has been preserved and maintained in it's original beauty! The pool, so-named for its Venetian-style architecture, began as a rock pit for the stone quarried to build Coral Gables in the 1920s by city founder George Merrick. Today, its waterfalls, coral caves and grottos, architecture, loggias, porticos, sandy beach, cobblestone bridge and a palm-fringed ''island'' earned it a historic landmark designation in 1989.


Believe it or not, in the 1950s and 1960s pools in some one's back yard were a pretty rare sight. Only our neighbor Mr. Geigenshot, the president of Dade Federal Savings and Loan had the wealth and position to have one put in. Growing up in the Shenandoah part of Miami, we kids would jump on our bikes on hot summer days and head to the public pools in the area. Our hangout was the city pool next to the Boy's Club on SW 32nd Avenue. Painted a rather sickly shade of government green, it was a crowded venue with little aesthetics to redeem it. Of course, we loved spending the day there carousing with our friends and being warned for the umpteenth time by the lifeguard to cut out the horseplay! By days end, we headed home with a good sunburn and a strong smell of the over chlorinated water.


However, for a really special treat or some one's birthday or special occasion, we got taken to the Venetian Pool. It was like an island holiday at a ritzy hotel for us kids. Natural cold spring waters without a trace of chlorine and surrounded by what appeared like the backyard of a Venetian Palace. We could hide from the sun's rays in the beautiful grotto away from the prying eyes of the lifeguard and engage in all sorts of horseplay. Of course, this could lead to minor tragedies in our horseplay. My New York City cousin managed to crack his head open on the grotto's craggy roof as we fought a particularly vivid water battle. While much blood was spilled, it was just a minor scalp would that ended the day somewhat abruptly! We had a great time!

17 comments:

Naomi said...

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that the Venetian Pool is open! I lived in Miami from 1952 to 1962 (I graduated from Miami Sr. High in 1961). I loved the Venetian Pool so much that I've actually had dreams about it. I used to want to live there. It's so gorgeous and mysterious and atmospheric. Thanks for letting us know that it is alive and well.

Dave said...

Naomi: Fortunately, some things have been preserved like the Venetian Pool! The sad news is that it is not much from your era in Miami. As a stingaree you remember the best years of that school as well. It was a footbal powerhouse in your era! If you get a chance to visit, I suggest you make Venetian Pool one of your stops. It will still be very much as you remember it. Best regards, Dave

Naomi said...

Yea, when I was in high school, we played all of our games at the Orange Bowl because we were national champions. Our star quarterback was Jimmy Angel. He was in my Spanish Class with Mrs. Perez. I can't believe that, at age 65, I still remember those details. If I make it down there, I will definitely go hang out at the Venetian Pool, grab a Royal Castle hamburger and see a flick at the Tower Theater. When I was a kid, I used to go to the kiddie shows on Saturdays at the Tower and there would be no parents there. Kids would run up and down the aisles and throw jujubes at each other. Those were very different times. Thanks so much for doing this blog. I'm loving it!!

Dave said...

My God! The Tower theater was my Saturday matinee house as well! Hardly anyone remembers it. The Royal Castle was just down the block on SW 8th Street. Since I was the oonly kid who was not jewish in my neighborhood, the other kids gave me their quarters the day before so I could pay the admission. Before the show, we would get a birch beer and a burger at the Royal Castle for about 30 cents if memory serves me. I would then rush home after the show to catch M.T. Graves on the local Dungeon TV show. He'd show the old Dracula and Frankenstein movies and I wouldn't be able to sleep all weekend...but I loved it!!!!

Dave said...

My God! The Tower theater was my Saturday matinee house as well! Hardly anyone remembers it. The Royal Castle was just down the block on SW 8th Street. Since I was the oonly kid who was not jewish in my neighborhood, the other kids gave me their quarters the day before so I could pay the admission. Before the show, we would get a birch beer and a burger at the Royal Castle for about 30 cents if memory serves me. I would then rush home after the show to catch M.T. Graves on the local Dungeon TV show. He'd show the old Dracula and Frankenstein movies and I wouldn't be able to sleep all weekend...but I loved it!!!!

Naomi said...

How old are you Dave? Were we in the Tower Theater at the same time?
I'm remembering Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger and they used to show the Buck Rogers series. I'm a big sci-fi fan, so I remember those.
This is great sharing these memories. My sister is 10 years younger than me and doesn't remember any of this stuff and I don't have any friends left from those years.

Dave said...

Naomi: I was born in 1950 at St. Francis Hospital in Miami Beach. I'm going on 59 this year. I remember that the Lone Ranger was on TV sponsored by Merita Bread! Also Sky King (and his niece Penny),Roy Rogers, the Cisco Kid and Hopalong Cassidy on Saturday morning TV. Funny the things you remember! The big event on Sundays was to go to Dressel's Dairy for the pony rides and ice cream cones or Crandon Park for the beach and the old Zoo that was there so many years ago. Sometimes, it feels like a dream as all those places are long gone.

Naomi said...

You're 7 years younger than me, so we probably were not at the Tower at the same time. However, every place you've mentioned brings back memories. I cannot believe that you remember that Merita sponsored the Lone Ranger. That's remarkable!

Hi Ho Silver, Away

Lisa said...

Hi, I lived in Miami from 1955 to 1981, graduated from Miami Senior High in 1971.

I remember the Tower Theatre! Also, something about RC Bottlecaps to get in on Saturday matinees.

I loved the Venetian Pool area - it was so much fun. Sometimes afterwards we would go to Carvel's for ice cream.

I miss those innocent days.

Lisa said...

Merita Bread and the Coppertone advertisement both on Dixie Highway, if my memory serves me correctly.
I am now 56.

Dave said...

Hey Lisa! You are correct that they had some special matinees sponsored by RC Cola where the accepted bottle caps. I had forgotten that! Unfortunately, you would not recognize Miami these days. They did renovate the Tower Theater, but I have not been inside since they did so. Thanks for stopping by!

Barry said...

Fantastic! I virtually lived at Venetian Pool every summer. We used to line up on the wall near the entrance and ask tourists to toss coins into the pool and we'd dive for them.
I bit a hole in my bottom lip doing a cannonball on top of another swimmer.
I made out with quite a few girls in the cave.
I graduated Gables High in '62. We used Venetian pool for our swim team training.
Barry

Lisa said...

I loved Venetian Pool - I am glad it has been restored to its former glory.

I lived off of N.W. 17th and 27th avenue and I remember walking to Curtiss Pool.

It was wonderful on a hot summer day.

Lisa said...

Speaking of Tower Theatre (I was born in 1953) I remember it! Also, something about getting in for 6 Royal Crowne bottle caps?

It was a great movie house. It was close to my grandmothers house on S.W. 8th Street.

Sparroweye said...

Went there many a weekend. Had to take two buses when I was a teen because we lived way out by Southwest High School and Dadeland. Remember the cave and kids kissing in there. I can still remember the smell in those showers and restrooms. It was the place to be if you were a teen.

Kat said...

I have soooo many memories of Miami.. I was born in 1952 at The OLD Victoria Hospital ( on the Miami River) and grew up in Allapattah. Grade school at Comstock Elementary of N.W. 26th Street..I remember taking 2 buses to South Beach to rent a surfboard for the day..The old bagel shops and all the "old" people who used to sit on the front porches of the now "Art Deco Hotels... I remember going dowtown with my Mom and Grandmother. They would leave us at the movie and they would go shopping.. We went to The Paramount, the Miami, The Florida, The Olympia ( my favorite) and saw the "kiddie" shows with 6 RC bottlecaps... Man, Those were the days!! I could go on and on.. I moved to N.C. in 1982. But we have 5 generations of people from So. Flroida in our family.. They can change the City, but not the memories!!!

Christopher said...

Im now 53.I was born at Doctors Hospital and lived in the Gables.Venetian pool was magical,I was know for jumping off the top of the cliff as we called it,into a perfect can opener I was famous for. I know the shower room smell the caves,the girlfriend makeout sessions.The freezing water. OMG! The Youth Center. Miracle Mile Bus station with the cool bookstore. How about the Coliseum with the bowling alley etc? P.S I am still way Handsome even today1