Ralph Middleton Munroe first visited South Florida in 1877 while on vacation from New York. On his second trip he brought his wife who suffered from tuberculosis. Unfortunately, the cure failed and she died. Her body is buried in Coconut Grove. He returned several times to the area and in 1887 decided to settle in the Bay.
Ralph Munroe purchased 40 acres (160,000 m2) of bayfront land in 1886 for $400 in addition to one of his sailboats, the Kingfish, valued at an additional $400. His boathouse was built in 1887 and he lived on its upper floor until his main house was completed in 1891. The house, a one-story structure, was raised off the ground on wood pilings. Its central room is octagonal in shape and Munroe called his home "The Barnacle," presumably because it resembled one. It remained a bungalow until 1908 when more space was needed for his growing family. The whole structure was lifted and a new first story inserted below. In 1912 a library was built adjacent to the house. The Barnacle survived the disastrous 1926 hurricane and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 with only minimal damage.
Ralph Munroe's principal passion in life was designing yachts. Boats were the major form of transportation in the early days of Coconut Grove and yachting was a popular sport. Many South Floridians commissioned Munroe to design their yachts. In 1887, a group of residents formed the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, electing Munroe as Commodore, a title that he held for 22 years. In his lifetime, he drew plans for 56 different yachts. Micco, one of the last of Munroe's boats, was displayed at the park until Hurricane Andrew reduced the 101-year-old vessel to fragments. Egret, a replica of Munroe's 28-foot (8.5 m) modified sharpie is now moored offshore.
As a seaman, civic activist, naturalist, and photographer, Commodore Munroe was a man who cherished the natural world around him. A walk into the park passes through a tropical hardwood hammock. It is representative of the original landscape within the city of Miami. Today, it is one of the last remnants of the once vast Miami Hammock.
Read more about this topic: The Barnacle
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