Featured image
Luxury Villas, Neighborhood

3 Best Historic Residential Areas in Miami

Although Miami is famous for its glittery skyscrapers and ultra-contemporary homes, many popular neighborhoods still showcase beautiful historic properties built during the city’s nascent years. From sprawling Mediterranean estates to charming tropical bungalows, these homes can be found in some of the most sought-after and expensive areas in Miami today including Miami Beach, Coral Gables, and Coconut Grove. Interested in buying in Miami but looking for a home with more character and charm? Here is your guide to 3 of the oldest and most beautiful historic neighborhoods in the Miami area.

By Shelby Pichet 29 Mar 2024


Coral Gables

Founded and developed by George Merrick in the early 1920’s and officially incorporated as a city in April 1925, Coral Gables was and still is one of the most sought-after residential areas near Miami.  Unique for its apparent and carefully maintained historic charm, the architectural integrity of the city is overseen by a board of architects and many of Merrick’s original zoning codes are still in effect today.  Merrick envisioned an idyllic city with cohesive architecture, carefully planned landscaping, and effective infrastructure including wide streets, great schools, public parks and attractions, and a flourishing business district.  In order to accomplish this, he brought on a team of architects who were known for their expertise in Mediterranean architecture, a style that he admired and envisioned all of Coral Gables to be built in. He also worked with a landscape architect, a color expert, and an artist to make sure that every aspect of his new city was perfect.   

Initially, the first phases of the development, centered around what is today Granada Golf Course and Coral Way, were geared toward middle-class families, a new concept for a planned community of that caliber at the time.  Sales exploded during the "Florida Boom", so he began to expand into more grand estates that can be seen around the Biltmore Golf Course and within the Country Club Section.  

Merrick also strayed from the Mediterranean style of architecture when building 7 thematic villages inspired by different, unique architectural styles from around the world.  These homes still stand today sprinkled throughout central and south Coral Gables and include: French Country, French City, French Normandy, Chinese, Florida Pioneer and Colonial, Dutch South African, and Italian Villages.

Tax incentives: as outlined in Section 8-119 through 8-124 of the Gables Zoning Code, property owners of designated historic homes are eligible to receive certain tax benefits when renovating.  Ad valorem taxes may be frozen at the rate before any improvements are made for a period of up to 10 years. The property qualifies whether it is income-producing or owner occupied and the benefit can transfer to new owners if the home is sold

Today, Coral Gables is known for its historic landmarks, luxurious neighborhoods, picturesque streets, and popular downtown district the Miracle Mile.  

Best Neighborhoods for Historic Homes

Top Sites & Destinations

  • The Biltmore Hotel & Golf Course
  • Venetian Pool
  • Miracle Mile
  • Merrick House Museum
  • Riviera Country Club
  • Shops at Merrick Park
  • Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Vizcaya Grove

Coconut Grove

Miami’s oldest neighborhood, Coconut Grove, originated as a small bayside village first settled by Bahamians and later adventurous travelers from around the world.  The area continued to grow after the Homestead Act of ## in which the government promised 160 acres of land to anyone who would reside there for 5 years.  Many of its historic landmarks are hidden in plain sight with tourists and locals alike passing them unnoticed every day.    

The same goes for most of the historic homes still standing in the Grove.  Aside from the imposing estates perched atop the coral ridge along S Bayshore Drive, many of the Grove’s remaining historic homes are nestled behind the area’s famous lush landscaping or behind inconspicuous gates guarding private communities.  Most people don’t think twice when passing Peacock or Barnacle Park, the former named after the Peacock family who were one of the first settlers in the area and responsible for evolving the area to allow visitors by building Dade County’s first hotel.  The latter holds the original 1891 home built by Ralph M. Monroe, an American yacht designer who moved to the Grove in the late 1800’s, a good friend of the Peacocks and strong advocate for the growth of Coconut Grove.  

Over time, with an increasing number of visitors discovering the appeal of the area’s unique tropical climate, the area began to flourish with luxurious estates popping up along the shoreline and resulting in Miami’s first “Millionaire’s Row.” Many of these early homes can still be found standing today, specifically along the exclusive dead-end streets nestled between Main Highway and Biscayne Bay.  The city gained popularity as more famous residents began setting there including William Jennings Bryan, whose home just sold as part of a record breaking $106 million dollar sale, David Fairchild, William Deering, and Miami’s first registered and arguably most famous architect Walter De Garmo. 

While many of Miami’s earliest historic homes originated in the 1920’s, Coconut Grove is unique in that it features many homes from the early 1900’s in a variety of architectural styles. 

Best Areas/Streets for Historic Homes

Unlike Coral Gables, Coconut Grove became its own city in 1919 but was annexed by the city of Miami in 1925 and does not have the same strict zoning codes.  As a result, the area contains a large mix of architectural styles from tropical bungalows to sprawling Mediterraneans and now, sleek contemporary new construction.

Today, Coconut Grove is host to a unique blend of trendy restaurants and shops, a lush green landscape, grand contemporary estates, and popular historic sites and homes built by icons of the past. 

Top Sites & Destinations

  • Many parks including Peacock Park, Barnacle Historic State Park, and David T Kennedy Park
  • Kampong National Tropical Botanic Gardens
  • Vizcaya
  • Downtown Coconut Grove & CocoWalk
  • Dinner Key


Miami Beach

From primarily Mediterranean revival in the 1920’s shifting to the iconic Art Deco movement in the 1930’s to the sleek contemporary estates of today, Miami Beach definitely has a history of showcasing some of the most luxurious and distinct architectural styles that are a reflection of their time. 

It can be hard to imagine that at the beginning of the 1900’s, what is today Miami Beach was an inaccessible, inhabitable sand bar with thick mangroves.  Today, the barrier islands hold some of the most expensive real estate in Florida, and in the country, and it’s all thanks to two men: a horticulturist from New Jersey and later an automotive entrepreneur from Indiana.  

John S. Collins originally purchased the land with the intentions of farming coconuts, mangos and avocados, three fruits seen as exotic at the time.  The crops ended up being a success and Collins sought to improve transportation with a canal, for which he turned to his kids to help finance.  They agreed to do so only if he agreed to build a bridge connecting the island to the mainland to help promote tourism.  

The project came to standstill with just half a mile of bridge left to be built.  Enter Carl S. Fisher, the successful automotive parts entrepreneur whose name is still recognizable today with what has been known as the country’s most expensive zip code: Fisher Island.  The Fisher/Collins partnership was successful with the completion of the bridge in 1913, and the development of grand estates to follow.  In fact, Miami Beach’s population exploded by a staggering 440% between 1920-1925, a time that is known as “The Florida Boom.”

Many of these historic estates still stand today behind private gates along some of the area’s most famous streets, including North Bay Road and Pinetree Drive, along the edges of La Gorce, Nautilus and Mid-Beach. In fact, according to the National Park Service, the 80 square blocks surrounding Flamingo Park in South Beach contain one of the highest concentrations of residential Mediterranean Revival architecture in the United States.  

Best Areas/Streets for Historic Homes

Top Sites & Destinations

  • Golf at the exclusive La Gorce Country Club and the public Miami Beach Golf Club
  • Historic Art Deco District 
  • South Point Park Pier
  • Luxury shopping and fine dining South of Fifth
  • Shops at Lincoln Road
  • The beach!







Parks, Arva Moore, George Merrick, Son of the South Wind: Visionary Creator of Coral Gables, University Press of Florida, 2015

Most recent articles

Subscribe to the newsletter now