"Unlike other parks, which are wonderful places to go and recreate, this is a place to go and contemplate. It's more for education, preservation, and serenity than it is a place to throw a Frisbee -- but if you wanted to throw a Frisbee, you could!" So says Terry Coulliette about the Barnacle, the house that yacht builder, ship salvor, and Coconut Grove pioneer Ralph Middleton Munroe built in 1891, and where he has worked as park manager for five years. Now designated a state historic site, the two-story structure, built in the South Florida vernacular style, sits on five secluded acres off Main Highway. Dense foliage and remnants of the ancient Brickell hardwood hammock shield it from the Grove's bustle.
In 1995 Coulliette and his staff envisioned the place as an idyllic setting for music, so they began the Barnacle Under Moonlight, a concert series that over the years has attracted thousands of listeners of all ages. Every month except July and August (too hot and buggy), on a weeknight near or on the full moon, the expansive back lawn, which stretches to Biscayne Bay, becomes a stage. In the past the likes of folkies Rod McDonald, Amy Carol Webb, and Grant Livingston (he played the very first concert), and the Top Brass Quintet have graced the greensward. Tonight's show, the first of the season, features popular Yarko Antonevych performing tunes on his Ukrainian bandura harp. Future concerts include jazz musicians Peter Betan and Marc Berner.
Although concerts occur near the full moon, Coulliette assures us that no listeners have exhibited any aberrant behavior. No one has sneaked inside the house (it's closed to visitors at night) and attempted to redecorate. Maybe the music keeps them calm. Coulliette selects the acts and tries to be objective, but he does impose some limits: "Any kind of hard metallic music would be inappropriate here. And grunge, industrial, that kind of thing -- forget it!" he chuckles.
What can't be forgotten are the many special projects planned for the house. The Barnacle Society, a nonprofit organization, raises money for just those purposes. Proceeds collected during concerts go to the group. "An old house doesn't appeal to everybody, but music does," says Coulliette. "What we're trying to do is broaden what we have here. People may come because of the music, realize how neat the place is, and come back for a tour. Therefore they become more educated about history and preservation and why it's so important that we try to retain some of the past."
The Barnacle Under Moonlight takes place Thursday, September 3, at the Barnacle State Historic Site, 3485 Main Hwy, Coconut Grove. Gates open at 6:00 p.m.; music starts at 7:00 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, free for children under age ten. Alcohol and pets are not allowed in the park. Call 305-448-9445.