The E.W.F. Stirrup House, located at 3242 Charles Avenue in the heart of Coconut Grove, is a standing testament to the vision of one of Miami’s pioneers dating from the late nineteenth century that reflects the social history of the city. The house is a superior example of wood frame vernacular architecture and has an impressive history all its own.
Until the mid-1980s, the house served as a primary residence for the members of the Stirrup family. E.W.F Stirrup lived there until his death in 1957. The 5 bedroom, 2 bathroom house has a stately kitchen, and spacious yard. The key elements that reflect its nineteenth century origins are its extremely narrow proportions, the size and shape of the fenestration, and its L-shaped plan. This design is based on a builder’s tradition, and was especially popular throughout America in the last half of the nineteenth century. Architecturally, there are a few different ways to describe the house. In “A Field Guide to American Houses,” Virginia and Lee McAlester describe it as a “front gable folk house.” In a more detailed article, Barbara Wyatt of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin described it as a “Gabled Ell.” Wyatt explains that this type was especially common in late–nineteenth century America, and was almost exclusively a residential type. The Gabled Ell takes the form of two gabled wings that are perpendicular to one another, and that are frequently of different heights. The longitudinal face parallel to the street almost always had the lower height. The result was typically an L-shaped plan. Ms. Wyatt explains that the form allowed for outdoor living space (the porch) and a sheltered entrance. Entry is always via the porch at the “ell,” or junction of the two wings. The plan shape and the form that places two wings perpendicular to each other to create an “ell,” and the porch are the distinguishing characteristics of the type. Its frame construction and clapboard siding reflect the type that proliferated in early Miami.
In addition to Stirrup’s superior construction, a major factor explaining the longevity of the Stirrup house was the use of the almost indestructible Dade County pine in the foundation and framing of the structure. This wood was extremely strong, weather and insect resistant, and plentiful around the turn of the century. Being a rapidly developing area at that time, the local supply of Dade County pine diminished steadily over time until eventually, the once plentiful local building product became a relic of the past.
The home has survived over one hundred years of tropical rains, ninety plus degree heat, hurricanes, termites, and other ravages of time. To date, It is one of the few and oldest remaining wood frame buildings in all of Miami-Dade County. Today, the Stirrup house still stands not only as a testimony to a period in south Florida construction history, but also the values that E.W.F.Stirrup lived by.