By Paul S. George
The province of Tequesta Indians until recent centuries, Coconut Grove was, by the early 19th century, a favorite stop for mariners attracted to its bubbling fresh water springs along a broad waterfront. Early residents in the area were few, but one, Dr. Horace Porter, established a U.S. Post Office in 1873, bearing the name Cocoanut Grove (sic).
Other settlers came from the Bahamas, and they homesteaded free land under the terms of the Homestead Act of 1862. One of the biggest breakthroughs came with the opening, in the early 1880s, of the Bay View Inn, later known as the Peacock Inn for its proprietors. The Inn became a magnet for a growing community of accomplished, often eccentric, visitors, many of whom would make Cocoanut Grove their permanent home.
By 1890, Cocoanut Grove counted more than one hundred residents, and the beginnings of a Black Bahamians population, whose members were skilled at farming and maritime work. Accompanying this growth were those institutions associated with a maturing community.
By the early 1900s, wealthy Americans, including titans of finance and industry, began building splendid winter homes along Main Highway. America’s entry into WWI brought a Naval air station to Dinner Key and Cocoanut Grove. In 1919, the community incorporated as a town, and dropped the “a” from Cocoanut Grove. In 1925, the onrushing city of Miami annexed Coconut Grove. At decade’s end Pan American Airways took control of the former naval air station venue for its seaplane operation.
Post World War II Coconut Grove saw additional change as the Grove became the “in” place for creative types, events and festivals, and for all who wanted a walking community amid leafy trees, venerable institutions, and quirky shops, bars, and restaurants. In recent decades, high rise condominiums have arisen and many of the charming “mom and pop” businesses have left. Yet, the Grove remains distinctly different from any other part of vast, dense Miami-Dade County.