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Friday, August 30, 2013

Tropical Escape: Florida Keys Desktop Wallpaper

Dreaming about that island getaway while you're at work? Check out this Florida Keys desktop wallpaper from ISLANDS Magazine of an Islamorada Beach. Download this onto your computer for that "ahhh" moment to get you through until your next tropical escape. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Strolling the Conch Republic: Architecture Key West Walking Tour

Key WestStroll the lanes of Old Town Key West, a National historic district, under the canopy of gumbo-limbo and banyan trees, past white picket fences that hold back lush gardens of orchids, banana trees, pink hibiscus and red bougainvillea, and you’ll feel like you’ve lost yourself in the 19th century.
“Key West is special because we have so many single-family homes from around the 1800s that have been stringently preserved,” says Tom Hambright, historian for Key West’s Monroe County. “Walking around Old Town brings back memories of the ways that people lived.” A mix of cultures from the Bahamas, Cuba, Europe and the eastern seaboard of the United States has resulted in a unique blend of wooden architectural styles adapted to make the best of the tropical climate. “They added large porches, high ceilings, deep roofs, scuttles to ventilate the attics and louvered shutters,” Hambright notes.
Seaworthy One block off the bustle of Duval Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, folks gather regularly on the lower veranda of the Heritage House (410 Caroline Street) for a guided tour of the 1834 home that’s now a museum. The two-story, blue-green structure evokes the ocean and is a stately example of Classical Revival Conch, also called a Bahama House. “The home was originally built by shipbuilders, who also built many of the other historic homes on the island,” says the museum’s Karen Sadof. “They built sturdy vessels and in turn sturdy homes, which have stood the test of time.” Builders even salvaged wood from ships that wrecked on the reefs. “I’ve always said that shipbuilders were definitely the original recyclers,” Sadof says.
Hidden Gems Head right onto Duval and then left on Eaton Street to the Artist House (534 Eaton Street), built in 1887. In Queen Anne tradition, the octagonal turret soars three stories high. Look up, and you can almost see the well-known Florida artist and previous owner, Gene Otto, painting by the splendid light in that room.
As you walk down Eaton, the small lots and intimate spacing of the houses give you a sense of the close-knit community. The sun glistens off the metal roofs, which became common after several fires ravaged Old Town. Stop and look closely past the palm trees that partially obscure the unusual façade of the Richard Peacon House (712 Eaton Street), and you’ll see one of the two octagonal houses in Key West built in the 1890s.
Next you will find the imposing Freeman Curry House (724 Eaton Street), which was built in 1885. Although stark in its black-and-white color scheme, peek at the ceilings under the porches, which have been painted a surprising light blue. This was thought to keep wasps from making nests because the color mimicked the sky.
Weddings, Winks and Everything in Between On the right-hand corner as you cross Southard Street is the William Albury House (730 Southard Street). Despite having fallen into a bit of disrepair, architectural details, such as limestone piers that were used to anchor the home to the bedrock, are spectacular. These piers lifted homes three feet off the ground, which allowed cool air to circulate underneath the floorboards. During storms, the raging winds and high waters could also pass through easily. Walk around to the backside for an excellent example of a widow’s walk, which is a square fenced perch that provides a view over the city. The legend is that the wife would wait there for the return of her husband lost at sea.
As you make your way down the street, you’ll find the Edward Roberts House (643 William Street), where the second-floor windows look at you drowsily from under an extended eave. Built in the 1800s, this home boasts an architectural style unique to Key West; it’s called an “eyebrow” house due to the eaves that shade the upper story (and catch cool breezes). Make a right onto Windsor Lane and then another right on Elizabeth Street to find a frothy pink concoction of a house built by Benjamin Baker in 1872 (615 Elizabeth Street), often referred to as the Gingerbread House. Baker gave it to his daughter as a wedding present; the explosion of ornate Victorian-style millwork, including the balustrades, friezes and brackets, gives it the feel of a wedding cake.
Keys Handiwork Millwork, which Hambright says was added all over the island with no apparent rhyme or reason, became the rage during the latter part of the 19th century. “It was a way to make your house different from the other guy’s,” he says. Pick up a copy of The Pelican Path at the Chamber of Commerce for a self-guided tour. The 51 historical points of interest in the brochure are marked with pelican signage.

Originally published in Florida Travel + Life magazine

Related Posts: Photo Essay Exploring Key West Architecture

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory Adds Flamingo Duo

Photo by Rob O'Neal
It doesn't seem possible that the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory could add any more color to their already stunning collection of 800 butterflies and 37 species of birds, but their new residents--a pair of flamingos--certainly do the trick.The male and female duo round out the exhibit in the 5,000-square-foot glass-enclosed atrium located on Duval St. in Key West... Read More.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Photo Essay: Exploring Key West Architecture

It's hard to believe that so many distinct styles of architecture are present on the tiny island of Key West. You can find quaint conch houses, Victorian mansions and Civil War era forts just in Old Town, a U.S. historic district.

Homes like the Cypress House, built around 1886, showcase Bahamian architectural influences like window shutters that could be closed for protection during storms. 

The third-floor has eyebrow-style windows--the roof eaves extend below the top of the façade partially obscuring the windows. This construction shades the upper story of the house and catches cool breezes.

Cypress House is unique to the island, as it's the only property that has remained paint-free with a natural wood exterior.

With its Queen Anne-style turet, the 1896 Southernmost House is one of the most photographed buildings in Key West.

Its features include bay windows, a Tiffany stained glass canopy, decorative corner brackets, turned pillars and delicate balusters. 
The wrap-around porches offer a shady place to while away the hot summer days.

Decorative millwork is common throughout the island. Some styles were mass-produced, while others were custom made with symbols such as the owner’s initials or hints to their occupation. For example, the balustrades at the Speakeasy Inn feature bottles and card symbols--a not-so-subtle sign that drinking and gambling were available inside.
There are three Civil War-era forts in Key West--Fort Zachary Taylor, Fort East Martello and Fort West Martello. Fort Zach (as it is known by the locals) is a treasure trove of brick arches and galleries. 

If you head 70 miles offshore to the Dry Tortugas National Park, you'll be wowed by Fort Jefferson--America’s largest 19th-century fort on the isolated 16-acre Garden Key. The hexagonal fort was built using 16 million bricks in 1846, and it's easy to get lost in the honeycomb of 300 masonry arches and crumbling windows.

What's your favorite building in Key West? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Zac Brown Band Jumps Right into Islamorada

The Billboard topping country group, Zac Brown Band, recently released the video for their new song, "Jump Right In," and I was delighted to see a few of my fave Florida Keys spots. The band took over the tree-house-style tiki bar, Rumrunners, at Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle, as well as the gorgeous beach at Morada Bay Restaurant in Islamorada. In the bar, you'll spot the patrons drinking potent rumrunners, which were actually invented at Holiday Isle. In the spirit of product placement, they're also quaffing Land Shark, a beer from Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Brewing. Perhaps a quid pro quo, since he appeared in one of their past videos, "Knee Deep?" Full of sand, palm trees, and tropical breezes, the locale looks like it could be anywhere in the Caribbean, but you can find it right here in the Keys.

Update: I finally tracked down the home of the hammock on the dock--the Moorings Village Resort, located right across the street from Morada Bay.