In the late 1800’s Key West was a mess. So a bunch of people got together and decided to redesign and rebuild the city. One of the results was a a variety of buildings known as gingerbread homes. Ranging from small dwellings to full fledged hotels, each building was unique. One of the features of each of these structures was intricate wood work on the front of the building. The designs were unique to each place and frequent indicated the business of the people who lived there. Many of these homes still stand to day and are an important part of Key West history. Many of the buildings are on the national register of historic homes and renovations must meet strict guidelines to maintain the uniqueness of each one.
In today’s world of cookie cutter army barracks style developments run by over bearing power hungry home owners associations who will take you to court over the wrong shade of white paint on your soffit and fascia, these homes stand out as a reminder of when this country had some real character. Most of these homes are in the old town section of the island, tucked away on back streets and alleys. If you are ever on the island take a day, rent a bike, and search them out. It’s a nice refreshing change from the hustle of the tourists areas.
For the next few months I will feature some of these homes here on the Fritter.
First up: The Speakeasy. Located on Duval Street, it used to be a place to get a drink during prohibition. Downstairs was a speakeasy. Upstairs a small gambling hall.
Look closely at the gingerbread. Can you spot the hearts and spades? (Or they may be diamonds) How about the whiskey bottles?
You can still get a drink there today. Not sure about the gambling though.