Key West Dreaming
Photograph - Photography
Key West, at the southern tip of Florida, exhibits a diverse blend of island architectural styles. Over 3,000 wood frame structures originate from the nineteenth century They are a significant National Register Historic District.
Key West was settled in 1823 by New England people, Cubans, fishermen, wreckers and spongers from the Bahamas. The wooden houses are the legacy of those early pioneers.
The hand-crafted, wooden Conch Houses are of simple, pure style. These antique dwellings comprise of a cultural legacy of Bahamian, New England, African, Creole and Victorian influence. This Conch architecture was inspired by New England seacoast architecture, Gulf Coast buildings, and the Caribbean prototypes were all adapted by the seafaring carpenters who produced skillfully crafted sloops and schooners. Carpenter architects, who used no formal plans, improvised from their ship building experience to construct these one and two story homes.
What emerged from the diversity of influences that adapted to the tropics. From New England came the Greek or Classic Revival, well proportioned houses with double hung sash windows, columns, pediments and widow's roof hatches. From the Bahamas came extended, overhanging eaves that covered balconies, And from the Bahamas, came the sloping gutters to funnel rainwater through downspouts into concrete holding tanks, known as cisterns. From Abaco and other islands came the louvered shutters filtering out the tropical heat, while allowing summer breezes to circulate. From the towns like New Orleans, came the shotgun style dwelling. Roof hatches, utilized in ships, were borrowed to facilitate ventilation.
Today former naroow and shuttered dwellings of Cuban cigar makers, stand next to more stately Classic Revival mansions. Historic preservation is in full swing here,
Restoration efforts are being done at many Key West streeys. Key West is a concentration of historic houses, narrow streets, tucked away lanes and deadend alleys. The close knit neighbors all remain largely unchanged.
The island's treasured legacy of shipbuilders, carpenters, cigar workers, spongers and fishermen who once inhabited Key West,is remembered.
May 7th, 2013
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