Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Venetian Pool

          While this blog is mostly about Palm Beach County, most of us who grew up here have spent time all over the state. From time to time, I just have to write about something somewhere else that keeps popping up in my head.  Those of you who write know the feeling of getting that whisper in your ear in the middle of the night that says, “Hey, you need to write about this.” Since I doubt my cats have mastered English yet, I have to take the voice as a directive and subject you to an entry about somewhere else in Florida.
               When I graduated college in 1981 (go ‘Noles!), my first job was at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.  Even though the job didn’t work out in the long run, it was responsible for bringing me to Coral Gables. On a hot, sticky weekend like only Florida can provide, I was trying to figure out to do and where to go.  My roommate suggested the Venetian Pool.  This not commonly known gem is one of the few pools, if not the only one, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tucked deep in a residential section of Coral Gables, you’ll probably need GPS or a detailed map to find it at 2701 DeSoto Boulevard.
               I remember the joy of locating it for the first time after driving around in circles. As I walked through the gates and paid the admission, the first sight of it was breathtaking. A tropical oasis complete with waterfalls and grottos, clear, cold water and a well-kept jungle of tropical plants along the edges. Lying there on the sand beach off to one side, it was almost possible to totally forget that I was still in a busy city. I knew the pool had been there a long time, but I was very surprised to find out later that my dad had been driven there from Delray Beach as a child with his siblings in the thirties and forties.
               The Venetian Pool is a holdover from a much more elegant time. Originally, it was a quarry for the limestone needed to help build George Merrick’s vision of Italy’s Venice in Florida, Coral Gables. Merrick’s uncle, Denman Fink, an architect, designed the conversion to the beautiful pool it is today in 1924. He included waterfalls, grottos and gondolas in the design along with a beautiful Mediterranean building at one side.
The water, all 820,000 gallons of it, was drained and re-filled every night from a natural aquifer until the 1980s when the conservationist minded city invested in a re-cycling system. It’s been drained for concerts, lectures and opera and has hosted such dignitaries as William Jennings Bryan, orchestras famous at the time and even the Miami Opera. When filled, not only has its chilly water been enjoyed by thousands of hot Floridians, it’s also been the site of swimming performances by famous swimmers of the day. I had heard Johnnie Weissmuller of Tarzan fame also swam there, but I can’t find any proof so it may just be a hopeful rumor.
               It’s an incredibly peaceful spot and worth the trip and the safari through suburbia to find it. Because it’s in sunny South Florida, it’s open year round.  Make sure you bring your camera.
               For prices and hours, head over to 
(Picture courtesy of Stephanie L. on site. More beautiful pictures are at

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