A True Artist

Phineas Paist & The Early Architecture of Coral Gables

Galeras Gallery |  August 23 – March 3, 2024
Guest Curator Dr. Nicholas N. Patricios

“A True Artist, that’s how renowned architect Richard Kiehnel referred to his colleague Phineas E. Paist (b. August 28th, 1873 – d. May 2nd, 1937) in his obituary, published in Florida Architecture and Applied Arts magazine of 1938. Paist began his career as an architect in Philadelphia, attended ateliers in Paris, traveled throughout Europe, making plein-air sketches of buildings and plazas, and worked as an associate architect on the Villa Vizcaya project in Miami before George Merrick hired him as Supervisor of Color for the Coral Gables Corporation in 1923. The exhibition will illuminate the substantial contribution that Paist, a multi-talented architect, artist, colorist, and supervisor made to the early architecture and development of the city of Coral Gables.

Coral Gables has been lauded as one of America’s finest early 20th-century planned developments. This is due to the considerable attention given to the city’s visual appearance by Merrick, founder and master developer of Coral Gables, in his vision to create an entirely planned city, a “City Beautiful.” During the hectic building activity of 1925, Merrick became concerned that his development team’s artistic vision would suffer in the rush to build. They searched for an architect they felt could help maintain the quality they sought and found just the right person in Paist, whom they considered had “the soul of an artist.” He was added to the development team by Merrick so that his dream city was built to the highest standard of aesthetic quality. In a 1924 article in The National Builder magazine, Paist explained his ideas on color and stucco, which will be reproduced and displayed in exhibition panels. To ensure his dream was realized, Merrick appointed Paist as Supervising Architect in 1925, a position he held until his death in 1937.

Coral Gables City Hall, designed by Phineas Paist (c. 1927-28)

A True Artist: Phineas Paist and the Early Architecture of Coral Gables explores his immense impact on the city’s urban and architectural heritage on his 150th Birthday. Through a series of original artworks, historic photographs, newspaper illustrations, publications and other memorabilia, Paist’s individual architectural work will be exhibited, along with buildings and structures he designed in collaboration with other architects, such as the well-known Venetian Pool, Douglas Entrance and the Colonnade, a campus plan for the University of Miami; and buildings that he designed with his architectural partner Harold D. Steward, such as the San Sebastian Apartment Hotel, Coral Gables City Hall, First Church of Christ Scientist, and the Coral Gables Firehouse & Police Station, which now houses the Coral Gables Museum. We also highlight Paist & Steward’s contribution to the World’s Fairs in Chicago (1933) and New York City (1939).

This exhibition is organized by Guest Curator Nicholas Patricios and Coral Gables Museum, thanks to initial research by Christina Chiang. Additional thanks to Amanda LeVasser, Archivist, Raul E. Valdés-Fauli Coral Gables Archives; Fernando Aranda, Master Conservator; and Christine Rupp, Dade Heritage Trust.