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9/5/01 - Miami Herald


By Anabelle de Gale

A demolition crew pulled the trigger Tuesday on three historic shotgun cottages in the West Grove, despite a three-hour standoff with a developer who hoped to save the properties.

Among the last of the West Grove's pioneer homes, they were built circa 1915 by Bahamian settlers who helped build Coconut Grove.

``We had a real dog-and-pony show out there today,'' said builder Anthony Parrish, who happened to be driving by the homes and spotted the demolition crew. The president of Wind & Rain, Parrish has renovated several homes in the area over the last eight years.

For three hours Tuesday, he kept the bulldozer at bay while trying to get in touch with property owner Shirley Gibson.

Parrish hoped to persuade Gibson to allow him to relocate the shacks to another property in the area, a job that would have cost about $15,000 per home. He made calls to the city's preservation officer, Sarah Eaton. No dice. The sites had not been historically designated by the city, meaning they had no protection.

``To make a long story short,'' Parrish said, ``we ran out of time.''

In the end, Parrish said, Gibson wanted $39,000 for the three properties. The builder offered $25,000. No deal. The quaint white wood homes were reduced to rubble less than two hours later.

``The shame of it is, they could have been gems. These were the real things -- shotguns. I can't tell you how upset I am. They had the potential to be the crown jewels of the West Grove,'' Parrish said.

Calls made to Gibson on Tuesday were not returned.

Built up off the ground and only one room wide, the homes had simple character. The front and back doors were in a direct line. Thus, the shotgun name: If a shot were fired into the house, the blast could exit the back door without hitting anything.

The three structures were next to one another at Charles Avenue and Plaza Street, in the heart of the black Grove.

``The Bahamians were here with the peacocks and the Brickells. It's very upsetting to see the homes torn down. They had a certain dignity about them that can't be replaced,'' Parrish said.

Equally disturbed was University of Miami School of Architecture professor Richard Sheppard.

The school and Parrish had teamed up in the past to do several West Grove housing projects to help low-income families own homes and college students gain experience.

For weeks last spring, students had worked on designs for the now-demolished shotgun shacks. Some of them even came up with completed plans.

``We were just trying to get some contributions to pay to get the work done,'' Sheppard said. ``It's very disappointing. What's sad is if we had been able to renovate them, we would have been able to demonstrate that they are worth saving.''