We often forget that the English, and even the French, were relative latecomers to the New World and even to North America. You can be reminded of that at Castillo de San Marcos, which was built 1672-1695 to guard St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in what is now the continental United States. The castle, a fine example of early modern European fortification engineering, also protected the sea route for treasure ships carrying the gold and silver of the New World to Spain. During the 18th century the fort changed hands between the Spanish and British before passing into American hands when the United States purchased Florida from Spain in 1821.
George Merrick’s vision for Coral Gables was a tropical community tastefully designed as a utopia for the American middle class. Merrick, as such, was a devotee of the City Beautiful movement whose tenets aimed to eliminate urban squalor and overcrowding. The City Beautiful espoused beauty, harmony and order as expressed through public parks, monuments and buildings. Merrick along with his uncle, “Supervisor of Color,” planned every detail from the shape of water towers to the stripes on awnings. The Alhambra Water Tower is standing testament to the City Beautiful tenets and Merrick’s vision. It is a a classic example of form and function united by beauty. The water tower was designed as a “lighthouse” that was not in view of the ocean. The exterior is a combination of wood and reinforced concrete painted to reflect a Mediterranean style. The interior of the “lighthouse” is strictly utilitarian in purpose and houses the actual steel water tank. This exuberant, colorful and exotic integration of form with design is reflected throughout Coral Gables from fountains at intersections to the grand Biltmore Hotel and Venetian Pool. This tower was part of the Coral Gables domestic water supply system as part of Consumers Water Company until 1931. In 1931 Coral Gables began purchasing its water from Miami. The City of Coral Gables purchased the Alhambra Water Tower from Consumers Water Company and in 1993 the water tower was extensively renovated. The Alhambra Water Tower was listed in the City of Coral Gables of Historic Places in 1988.
Links: Alhambra Water Tower