National Register Travel Itinerary--Georgia-Florida


49) Key West Historic District

Located 150 miles from Miami at the western terminus of the Florida Keys, Key West has been a thriving community for more than 170 years. The first settlers, who came from South Carolina and St. Augustine, arrived in 1821 with the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States. In the mid-19th century prosperity in Key West was based on the thriving maritime salvage business. The construction in the 1840s of Forts Zachary Taylor and Jefferson and the U.S. Naval Station helped boost the economy, and strengthened the strategic importance of Key West. It was the only Southern port held by Union forces throughout the Civil War and during the Spanish-American War, was one of the United States' most significant naval bases. The city has also an important cigar-making center, boosted by the large number of Cuban refugees on the island. The arrival of Henry Flagler's railroad in 1912 promoted the development of the Keys, and the easy access to mainland Florida was a catalyst for the early development of the tourism industry. Key West continued to be of importance as a strategic naval base through the 1960s and today is a busy resort city. The Key West Historic District includes residential and commercial buildings from the 18th through the 20th century. Located in the district are many examples of a distinctive vernacular residential style particular to the Florida Keys--the Bahama style house. These are wood-frame, one- to two-story residences constructed to withstand high winds. The houses have extensive wrap around porches and were often embellished with cut or turned woodwork. An excellent example of this style is the John Bartlum/ Bahama House on Eaton Street.

Georgia Map The Key West Historic District is bounded by White, Angela, Windsor, Passover, Thomas, and Whitehead Streets, and the Gulf of Mexico. Key West is at the tip of the Florida Keys off US 1. Self-guided tours of Key West are available from the Key West Chamber of Commerce, 402 Wall Street, Key West, FL, 33040. (305) 294-2587.

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