Historic Markers Across Florida

Coconut Grove Playhouse

Marker ID: FLHM F-900
Location: 3500 Main Highway Coconut Grove, Miami, FL
County: Miami-Dade
Coordinates: N 25° 43.546    W 080° 14.681
  25.72576666    -80.24468333
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: WMXNER


Coconut Grove Playhouse

(Side 1)
This theater is one of the few structures in downtown Coconut Grove that typifies the flamboyant era of the 1920s. Envisioned by Miami entrepreneurs Irving Thomas and Fin Pierce, The Grove was a luxurious movie theater designed in the Spanish Rococo style by noted architect Richard Kiehnel, who also designed the Miami Senior High School, the Scottish Rite Temple, and many South Florida homes. The Grove was the most elaborate theater with the largest capacity in Miami. Before its opening in 1926, Thomas sold the theater to the movie studio Paramount Enterprises, Inc., believing that the studio could bring in larger attractions. As one of Paramount's 11 theaters in Southeast Florida, it was equipped with the latest model Wurlitzer pipe organ and was one of the few air conditioned buildings in the area. In addition, the building served multiple purposes with storefronts on the ground floor, offices on the second, and apartments on the third. The theater enjoyed a brief period of success before it closed during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

(Side 2)
During World War II, the theater was used as a training school for U.S. Army Air Corps navigators. Following the war, the building was closed until 1955 when it was purchased for $200,000 by George Engle, who decided to transform it into a performing arts center. Engle hired prominent Modernist architect Alfred Browning Parker to redesign the theater. The remodeled theater opened on June 3, 1956, as the Coconut Grove Playhouse and was Miami's first live theater. The opening was headlined by the U.S. premiere of Samuel Beckett's masterpiece “Waiting for Godot.” After changing ownership multiple times, the theater was purchased by the State of Florida in 1980. Despite its turbulent history, the Coconut Grove Playhouse evolved into one of the most important regional theaters in the country and remains a beloved venue for the theatrical community in Miami.

Florida Heritage Site
Sponsored by Coconut Grove Civic Club
and the Florida Department of State