Miami can be perceived as a bit lacking in that classic Southern charm taken very seriously in cities like Savannah and Charleston. But head east on Sunset Drive and take a right onto SW 47 Court and it seems like time slipped into the Antebellum South and landed at the Wilkes’ plantation home of Twelve Oaks.
It is a tranquil and flourishingly green street where the cardinals still sing loudly in mid-afternoon and the neighbors get together for block parties and holidays. Several area property owners have united to lobby for the uneventful transfer of the Milledge home now for sale at 4700 SW 74 St. The community hope is that a new buyer will also fall in love with the neighborhood and preserve the property and character of the street.
“We all love our block,” said neighbor Jill Kramer. “We want to maintain the charm of our street, it is very important to us. We are afraid of developers that don’t care.”
The home was built in 1901 and originally stood behind Sunset Elementary School until it was moved the few blocks over to its current location by the Milledge family in 1944. “It was historically a cracker farm house,” said owner Lewis Milledge. “Mom put in federal features and changed the window treatments for the look of colonial Williamsburg.”
Milledge, or “Brother” as he is affectionately known in the community, lived on the property all his life with the exception of college, law school, and first nuptials. “We had chickens in the yard as pets, and we had a corral. I had a horse but he was too big for me so my father got me a pony named ‘Bopeep.’ I would ride on those streets in Coral Gables that were east of the property and as I recall only a couple were paved. You could ride all day long and my word, you wouldn’t see another soul.”
The neighborhood is also famous for the departed souls from the pioneer era laid to rest at Pinewood Cemetery on Erwin St, just one block east of the Milledge home. Jeremiah Barnett, a Private of the 1st Florida Infantry during the Spanish American War and Mary Townsend Addison, who arrived in 1860 with her husband John and settled in to what eventually became the Deering Estate, are two of the estimated 200 buried at Pinewood.
Although the cemetery struggled over the years to secure historic protection, and tombstones as well as land have been lost, as one Coral Gables city commissioner put it in genealogist Harriet Stiger Liles’ book on Pinewood Cemetery, “it all came back to haunt them.” Thanks to the efforts of historians like Liles, the city of Coral Gables, and Eagle Scout Troop 457, the cemetery has been restored to a lush memorial landscape.
Neighbor Victoria Cummock knows a bit about historic restoration. Her 1860 Antebellum Colonial home down the street from the Milledge property was moved to its current location from Daynesberry, Georgia. “The Cornell family bought the house from 93 year old bachelor Judge Clark,” said Cummock. “When the family bought it, they paid $250 and split it up into four pieces to send to Florida in 1952.” The Cornell Home has since been completely restored and is designated historic by Miami-Dade County. Cummock hopes the Milledge house will find a similar benefactor. “It’s got great bones but needs TLC. Unless someone has a love for restoration or is willing to put the money into it, it’s a teardown. There are very few homes left from that period in South Florida. It would be a shame if anybody decided to tear it down.”
It is a bittersweet time for the Milledge family. They hope their historic home will not be torn down yet understand the harsh economic realities of life in the big city. “It is sad, it is incredibly sad, to not continue to have the home in our family,” said Milledge. “But I have to be relieved of this tax burden and get things changed around and go on with my life.”