By Karelia Martinez Carbonell, President Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables
Did you know that back in the 1930s there was a horse riding academy, complete with a stable and a show ring, that brought the beauty of horses to Downtown Coral Gables?
The City of Coral Gables and the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables joined efforts to unveil the Coral Gables Riding Academy & Show Ring historical marker on the 65th anniversary of its closing. The free event took place at 2320 Salzedo Street in front of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, the original site of the Academy’s show ring.
One of the original dimensions of Coral Gables Founder George Merrick’s dream was the importance of horses in the social and sporting life of his new city. In 1924, the Coral Gables Riding Academy office and stable opened on the northwest corner of Salzedo Street and Giralda Avenue. To the south was the show ring which took up the block on Salzedo between Giralda and Aragon Avenue.
In 1926, Merrick hired riding master James A. Macauley (replacing Dr. Herbert L. Cox, first Academy director). Major Joseph C. Kittell, an expert on equitation followed. In 1929, Merrick invited John A. Gazlay to bring his string of horses [from outside the city) to Salzedo. Thus began the Gazlay years at the Academy—described in the 1930 city directory as “featuring cross-country rides and excellent acclimated saddle horses”. The Academy was one of the city’s longest-lasting businesses.
The Academy had a permit that allowed horse riding throughout the city and the median of Alhambra Circle, which ran along the back of the stable, was originally laid out with a bridle path. The 35-mile horse trails ran along Alhambra and Country Club Prado, around the Granada Golf Course, the Biltmore course, the campus of the University of Miami, and beside the waterways.
From 1930 to 1952, the Gazlay family managed the Coral Gables Riding Academy, bringing the beauty of horses and the excitement of horse shows to Coral Gables residents. The Academy played an important role in the local equestrian community. Some horses at the Academy were well known. Silver, a pure white Arabian stallion, famous as the mount of the Lone Ranger in the movies, was the star at local events and parades, during which he was shod in special rubber shoes, to provide for surer footing on pavement. The Academy’s Sunday breakfast rides were a weekly social event during the 1930s and 1940s. The rides wound through the Gables’ trails. When the riders reached “open country” –now the Riviera section of Coral Gables—they ate breakfast under the trees. The Coral Gables Riding Academy included an office, stable, and show ring. The original Gables location was on leased ground and moved outside Coral Gables in 1952.
Established in 1991, the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables (HPACG) is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to promote the understanding and importance of historic resources and their preservation. For additional information please visit www.historiccoralgables.org