When I visit Key West, I always wish I could peek inside the beautifully restored private homes in the picturesque historic district. And now I can, on annual house tours organized by the non-profit organization that has spearheaded the historic preservation movement in Key West for more than 50 years ago.
Florida Rambler is thrilled to have the Old Island Restoration Foundation as an advertiser on our site for the second year. We think it’s a great partnership: The house tours are just the sort of event our readers want to learn about. You’ll see ads for the tours on our site in 2016-2017.
The tours are conducted by the Old Island Restoration Foundation and funded in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
Each tour features homes and gardens reflecting the varied tastes and originality of their owners. Some showcase homes have been scrupulously restored. Other have been ingeneously renovated. Many have art collections and antiques.
The last house tours for the 2016-17 season is Friday and Saturday, March 17-18, 2017. The theme is “It’s Not Just History: Clever Renovations, Expansions and Creative Decor.”
General admission tickets for all tours are $30 per person and $35 during the days of each tour.
Homes may be seen in any order and viewings may be split over two days; you can take your time and explore.
The March tour:
- 1009 Windsor Lane – This block across from the church was just being developed c. 1900 when twin houses were constructed. Greek Revival may have been passé in major cities, but it was still a favored, tried and true design here. Like many others, in leaner times it was cut into apartment. The entire interior was rehabilitated in 1989. The poolside guest house constructed during that renovation is a perfect replica of a small ‘eyebrow” house.
- 806 Virginia Street – During the Great Depression, a young mason from the mainland joined the Civilian Conservation Corp and ended up marrying a local girl in Key West. He used his skills to house his family in a unique concrete cottage – even casting rusticated “stones” himself. During the last decade, his son returned this his Island home. Renovation restored and improved upon its originality.
- 1122 Seminary Street –The 1909 hurricane destroyed a cigar factory and other early structures in this neighborhood. But a period of real estate speculation still moved forward and this was erected c. 1915. Nine decades later, during our last real estate boom, it was transformed by a complete, sumptuous renovation. Don’t be fooled by its vernacular “foursquare” appearance; the latest in luxury fittings and finishes are found within.
- 815 White Street – Cigar-roller houses once lined this street, but the factory burned down. As WWII ended, demand for new housing rose. A local successful grocer invested in the land and erected a cozy wooden cabin. In recent decades, the cottage was doubled in size with a master suite and cathedral ceilinged living room. Its latest redecorating left an inviting front porch and clapboard camouflage but gave the interior a contrasting modern look.
- 2213 Harris Avenue – During post-WWII prosperity, younger members of old Conch families and recent arrivals wanted new houses with all modern amenities and a yard for the children. Few were interested in inheriting their grandparents’ old wooden houses. “Suburbs” sprouted on land that, often, did not exist a decade earlier. This 1953 “ranch house” on a deep lot was typical. It has received a recent facelift, but the furnishings are the feature here: everything was found at local estate and moving sales. The salvage tradition continues!
Resources for planning a Florida Keys vacation:
- Mile marker guide with dozens of stops to help make the most of your drive south.
- Florida Keys wildlife: Places to see animals
- Tiki bars: Soak up the Keys atmosphere
- 12 great kayak outings in the Keys
- Top 10 pit stops on Overseas Highway
- Free beaches in the Florida Keys
Special places to explore in Key West:
- Free things to do in Key West
- Key West on budget: Accommodations, restaurants
- Florida Rambler guide to the Lower Keys
- Eight Key West restaurants for authentic local flavor
- Key West Butterfly Conservatory: A tranquil stop
- Audubon House, a lovely refuge in Key West
- Historic Key West Seaport
- Historic Key West Cemetery is full of stories
- Fort Zachary Taylor
- Hogfish Grill: Where Key West locals go for fresh fish
- Key West chickens