Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day One in Key West

We arrived in Key West in the early evening. Our inn was easy to find being located on the main road into the Old Town.

Like many accommodations in Key West, our Inn was a restored victorian home. Many of the lavish properties of sea captains, merchants and successful wreckers were converted into tourist accommodation under grants offered to city residents during the depression to try and boost tourism as the import economy collapsed.

This was the central building of the bed & breakfast providing the reception and the pool and open air breakfast area was off to the right.

Our room was in this building now called the Maloney House which was built in 1854 and subsequently owned by Robert Maloney who was a US Congress Representative for Massachusetts in the 1920's and enjoyed this as a vacation home. It is one of the oldest buildings in Key West and on the National Register of Historic buildings. Our room was upstairs on the right hand side of this view.

Inside our spacious room

Immediately outside our room was a large private porch/balcony, a great spot to enjoy an aperitif before going out for dinner !

Before heading to Key West we were aware that we would probably be leaving our car in the hotel carpark for the duration of our stay in the town as roads are narrow and congested.

Typical architecture of the Old Town is low-rise houses & shops built typically in the late 1800's / early 1900's with a strong Caribbean flavour. The original 'conch' houses were built of a mortar made of water, sand & lime. The lime was obtained by burning Queen Conch shells found all over the coastline. Eventually tradition turned to woodframe structures as the Florida East Coast Railway made it possible to bring large quantities of wood to the island quickly.

There were practical reasons for the style of architecture in The Keys. The sharply pointing metal roofs deflected the sun, but were also durable to hurricanes. The louvered shutters keep out the hot afternoon sun but allow the sea breezes in whilst also protecting the glazing during hurricane season. The large porches and wrap-around verandahs provide shade and keep the direct sunlight off the windows and exterior walls.

The remote location of Key West means it has a well developed airport, built on reclaimed land just outside the Old Town. With over 100 flights a day surprisingly large jets swoop low over the town on quite a frequent basis

The undisputed centre of Key West is Duval Street which runs the full length from the East to West coasts of Key West island. The street is lined with restaurants, shops, bars and inns but predominately using the historic previously residential buildings along the street. It was not uncommon to find a restaurant in what looked like a house with a few tables in the front garden and porch, a few more in the two front rooms and a few more on the upstairs verandah. It was refreshing that there was virtually no new-build in the centre of the Old Town. Indeed there are over 3000 historic buildings in the town and each business has to adapt to the old building they are in rather than tear down and build new.
This converted warehouse is Sloppy Joes. This long established bar is famous as the main hang-out spot for Ernest Hemingway when he lived in the town during the 1930's It's actually bending the truth slightly as Sloppy Joes was actually located around the corner one block off Duval St for most of the time Ernest Hemingway used to go there on a regular basis. It relocated to Duval St in 1937 by which time Hemingway was already starting to spend less time in The Keys. Nonetheless this is an extremely busy entertainment spot and certainly the heart of Key West. They frequently have bands pitch up for a live session. When we passed big Stateside country band Emerson Drive were playing but even the sidewalk was too congested you couldn't get near !

This is a brief panorama view of Duval Street at the intersection with Sloppy Joes Bar on the corner.

Heading to the West end of Duval Street you meet Mallory Square and the warehouse district. This area around the port was the hub of activity in the later 1800's and early 1900's when the town was busy receiving imports from the Caribbean and Latin America. After many years of decline the harbourside has been rejuvinated, warehouses converted into museums, restaurants and bars.

There is a statue park with many recognisable and important figures in Key Wests history.

Harry S Truman, who was the 33rd President of the US in office from 1945 to 1953. He vacationed in Key West for a great many years and indeed established the Little White House as a functioning office during his term.

Abraham Lincoln

Ernest Hemingway

Plus a sculpture recognising the importance of shipwrecks and the wreckers in the citys history.

The US Customs House, built in 1890.

Down by the waterfront were an assortment of seabirds, including this big fat pelican

And this .........? Well I'm not sure what breed this bird was although it is distinctive. I have Googled without success and am awaiting a reponse from a couple of bird websites.

A huge cruise ship, Grandeur of the Seas operated by Royal Caribbean is docked at Key West Harbour. This enormous cruise ship holds over 2400 passengers and 700 staff and these stops make a big impact on the economy of the town

David thought the Grandeur of the Seas was too big, but he would settle for this private yacht moored in the marina.

The entrance to the Truman Annexe, the guarded neighbourhood of the Navy base and Little White House.

Fountain at the entrance to the Truman Annexe

The sign providing the background to the Little White House.

The Little White House where Harry Truman presided for many summers between 1946 and 1953.

Walking back along Whitehead Street we noticed this 'house of garbage'. It seems the occupier (there were lights on inside, apparently someone lives there) is a bit of a hoarder - it was full to the rafters of junk. The house next door was listed for sale......tough economy or not I think they'll have a tough time with this guy as their neighbour !

Then we spotted this car parked across the road. It too was completely full of rubbish except for the drivers seat. Definately an interesting character lives here.....

Finally walking back we pass the Monroe County Courthouse.

We also visited the Ernest Hemingway House and the Key West Lighthouse on this day but I will post them in separate entries.

No comments: