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Frank M. Button, Landscape Architect
By Kendell Turner
The aesthetically pleasing landscape of the City of Coral Gables can be attributed to Frank M. Button, the city’s first landscape architect. George E. Merrick, the city’s founder, had a keen eye for surrounding himself with people of both knowledge of their professions and an artistic sensibility.
Merrick set high standards for his dream city. Together he, Frank M. Button and Denman Fink, the city’s first artistic director, masterminded an ideal town plan. In 1921, Button signed a letter of agreement to plan a city that would include landscape design principles, the layout of streets and sidewalks, and create site plans for homes. Merrick believed that recreational facilities added to quality of life, and Button designed space for golf courses and bridle paths. City planners, past and present, from around the country may look to the original blueprints of Coral Gables as an example of a well-planned city.
The Alhambra Circle median that stretches from Le Jeune Road to Coral Way and the Country Club Prado parkway from Eighth Street to Sevilla Avenue were used as bridle paths. Regular riders included Mrs. George E. Merrick, Mrs. Annabelle Siebold, Mr. Charles Merrick and Miss Marjory McFarlane. The “daily ride on horseback” became so popular that the Coral Gables Corporation had to provide additional routes. The expansion included the Alhambra Loop, the Biltmore Loop, the University Loop and the Coco Plum Loop.
Button knew about the principles of the Garden City movement. He had worked as engineer and construction superintendent for O.C. Simonds and coordinated work issues with the office of John C. Olmsted in 1904. Olmsted was the brother of Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape designer of Central Park in New York.
Button continued working on his landscape designs, parkways and canals in the new sections of Coral Gables until 1929. He continued his professional work as an employee of Dade County. Unfortunately, while supervising the planting of trees in the median of Bird Road, he fell into the path of a truck and was fatally injured. Button was born in Brandon, Vermont on August 14, 1866. His untimely demise occurred in Coral Gables on August 3, 1938.