To celebrate 10 years as owner of Cauley Square Historic Railroad Village, located at 22400 Old Dixie Hwy., Frances Varela is keeping it open on Christmas and New Year’s.
“This year is going to be special,” she said.
Normally, Cauley Square would be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s so employees can celebrate with their families. However, many of Cauley Square’s regular customers urged Varela to keep the historic enclave open for the holidays.
“Because it’s Saturdays and Sundays,” she said. “And Cauley Square is 10 years with me. For 10 years I’ve spent a lot of time improving this place. This is something my customers asked me. We’re going to have two bands and a deejay.”
Tables will be set up outdoors as well as in the Tea Room and Village Chalet. There also will be a special menu for New Year’s Eve.
Regular customers are familiar with the featured bands. In fact, the Viva Classic Rock and Roll Band plays every Friday night while Kim Bankston performs jazz every Saturday night.
When Varela bought Cauley Square a decade ago, it was still struggling to come back from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Andrew, which walloped South Miami-Dade County in 1992. Today the 27 historic cottages are well kept and the grounds are lush. The cottages house lovely shops — including three antique stores, a toy shop, an aquarium store and a florist. There also is the Aviary, a store dedicated to exotic birds; O Sew Crafty, which sells handmade craft made by local artists; and a women’s dress shop.
Varela added paved garden paths to the landscape, creating courtyards and open space for outdoor events. She created special menus for the Village Chalet restaurant and the famous Cauley Square Tea Room.
The original cottages were built in 1903 by employees of Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad. It is one of the few remaining railroad villages in the U.S. and the only one left in Florida.
Before purchasing the historic railroad village, Varela had been in the construction industry, building homes. She looked to diversify because of the housing bubble.
“I saw the place and I liked it,” she said. “I never thought I’d work so hard. I really enjoy it.”
Initially the work included a lot of painting and cleaning. She then added the fountains, walkways and courtyards to the grounds.
After revitalizing the grounds, Varela has worked to make the village a destination point. Cauley Square hosts numerous events on site, including special events for Christmas and an Easter Egg Hunt, Corvette Car shows, and several arts and crafts festivals. They also cater bridal showers, weddings and baby showers.
Organizations such as the Red Hat Society have High Tea in the Tea Room. The Tea Room is well known for its cuisine and its delicious spice tea.
Cauley Square is located off S. Dixie Highway (US1) at SW 224th Street in Goulds. For more information, call 305-878-1410 or 305-258-8900, or visit online at www.cauleysquare.com.