the wandering chick
So far, we had seen sandy beaches, touristy hot spots, myriad wildlife and more than a few highways and byways. Now we would be ready for a bit of city life. Not that we wouldn't see those same things here.
But Key West was different...perhaps we traded our flip-flops for sandals, and our beach towels for purses, and the car stayed parked for almost the duration.
Old Town's Duval Street was the happening place, lined on both sides with boutiques, galleries, restaurants and bars. We used the Conch Train, one of a couple of touristy trollies available, to take us around to the highlights and to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the town. Then, we went back on our own to visit what we wanted.
That included the Ernest Hemingway House, former President Harry Truman's Little White House, Mallory Square, the popular "Southernmost Point" and a few other places in between.
The pictures on this page are a mini representation of what there is to see and do in Key West. Enjoy!
fun in Old Town
Really?? There is a very prominent hotel at 1400 Duval Street, on the corners of Duval and Whitehead, that was built in 1897 by Judge Vinning Harris. It's a colorful Queen Anne Victorian and was built as a one-bedroom mansion for the family. Over the years, being a very prominent citizen, the Harrises transformed their home into an 18-bedroom hotel and called it the Southernmost House Hotel. They entertained such guests as presidents, celebrities and even gangsters who were on their way to and from Havana. But enough on that house. There is another house, less prominent and not easily seen by the general public, that is more southern than the Harris place. To bring notice to that house, at 400 South Street, the above sign was posted. It is also a hotel and is listed with the HomeAway group and possibly other rental groups.
The Museum of Art and History at the Custom House was once a post office, then the courthouse. It was built in 1891, but became abandoned when Key West the town went bankrupt in the 1930. In more recent years a renovation has taken place to renew it to its earlier grandeur. The statues that surround the building, as well as others inside, were sculpted by artist J. Seward Johnson. Some of them are below.
The only place in Key West where we had to stand in a line was here at the Southernmost Point of the U.S. Everyone wanted an individual picture of themselves next to the oversized concrete buoy. In truth, the real southernmost spot in Key West is on land owned by the Navy and not accessible to tourists. It sits 900 feet farther south and on the Harry Truman Annex property. This particular spot was chosen because the piece of concrete, having been dug up from the water, was too heavy to move. So, it was painted to look like a bouy and pronounced the most southern point. Build it, and they will come.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church had been destroyed by two hurricanes and a fire within the first 29 years of its life. It's been as we see it today since 1919.
Constructed by artist Seward Johnson depicting the "Dance at Bougival" painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. More of Johnson's sculptures are on display inside the museum.
A beautiful building that sits in a prominent place, but what it is I know not. Haven't given up.
The front and main entry
Hemingway was quite proud of this fountain. The water jug is from Cuba, but the ceramic trough at the bottom was a urinal that he grabbed from a bar he frequented, Sloppy Joe's on Duval Street, when they were renovating. It's used today as a water source for the cats.
Former President Harry Truman visited Key West often while in office from 1945 - 1953. Eleven times, in fact, and each time, always during the winter months, he stayed here at what is called the Little White House and, by some, the Winter White House of America.
Originally, the home, built in 1890, was a duplex, living quarters for the two highest-ranking Naval officers of the base on which the home sits. Later, it was converted to a single dwelling for the commander. At that time, the house sat on waterfront property, but the Navy has since filled in land and added a building that blocks the view that Truman had.
In later years, other presidents, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy among them, each made more than one visit to the White House. Eisenhower laid plans for the creation of the Department of Defense in a series of meetings here, and Kennedy visited after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Jimmy Carter had a family reunion at the house, and Bill and Hillary Clinton also visited.
Tours are given at the Little White House which, in 1991, became a museum. It is owned by the state of Florida. Personal artifacts such as Truman's "The Buck Stops Here" sign as well as his briefcase and telephone stay on display for visitors to enjoy. Photography is not allowed inside the living quarters.
Key West certainly has no shortage of beautiful trees. These are on the grounds of the Truman Little White House.
Hens and roosters run rampant around the city of Key West, and at the time we visited, the little chicks were running around, too.
The study/office where Hemingway did most of his work is in a bungalow beind the main house. A picture of the outside of the bungalow is to the right.
Probably the most notable person to have lived on Key West was author Ernest Hemingway. The home where he lived for the duration of the 1930s is now open for tours. Visitors are thrilled to find descendants of Hemingway's six-toed cats roaming...well, mostly sleeping...throughout the home and grounds. There is also a cemetery for those who have passed.
Some of Hemingway's best works are said to have been done here, including "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," "Green Hills of Africa" and "To Have and Have Not."
The home sits 16 feet above sea level, the second highest in the city. It was one of the first on the island to have indoor plumbing and the first with a swimming pool. It was built in 1851.
The next several pictures are of Hemingway's home and grounds.
These portraits hang in the Hemingway house.
Hemingway was known for his cats, but few people realize they are polydactyl, i.e. born with an abnormality that gives them more than the normal five toes on one or more of their paws. Hemingway's first cat, Snow White, had six toes. Many of the approx. 40-50 cats, said to be descendents of Snow White, have the gene that carries the trait, but, according to Hemingwayhome.com, only about half of them are actually six-toed.
One of the most distinguishable trees in Key West is the banyan tree. It is a fig tree and is identifiable by its thick above ground roots. It's hard to tell which is even the main trunk.
The banyan tree to the right is in a residential part of town. Its limbs spread left and right, up and down and every which direction for almost a half city block. I couldn't even capture the whole tree with a wide-angle lens.
A mobile library hangs in an entryway outside one of the shops on Duval Street. Drop a book, take a book. It seems this is a trend - new or old, I don't know, but easy, practical, unregulated and based on an honor code, it's a handy book exchange for all.
Here are the official beginning and ending road signs to the east coast's Highway One. It runs for 2,369 miles and is the longest north-south road in the United States. The other end is near the Canadian border in Maine.
We were walking away from the southernmost point on a sidewalk minding our own business when crawling from under a fence is this iguana. We were barely forewarned by a little moustached man carrying a too-short stick in an effort to corral the iguanas back into the fenced area. There were several (iguanas, not moustached men). Perhaps we were supposed to tip this man for saving our lives??
Palms and Pride of Barbados...what a very tropical and festive combination of trees.
Decorative buoys on the porch of the Blue Heaven Restaurant, pictured below. The Blue Heaven was one of Ernest Hemingway's hangouts.
The marina and Harbor Walk
Pride of Barbados, also called Dwarf Poinciana can be seen throughout the Keys.
Whether it's a restaurant, a private residence, a hotel or a B&B, the architecture of Key West is stunning. The colors are subtle, yet eye-catching. The Victorian style so prominent of the 19th century can be found on every street. In the 1930s when other parts of the U.S. considered the Victorian style outdated and therefore demolished the structures for a more modern look, Key West was too poor to follow the lead. Fortunately, their wooden structures were made of such woods as cypress, cedar and yellow pine...all that were able to withstand the test of time. Old Town Key West has the largest historical district of wooden structures on the National Register of Historic Places. The pictures below are of houses that caught my eye as I wandered the side streets of Old Town.
Higgs Beach probably isn't the best beach on the island, but it looked appealing when we passed by it on the Conch Train, so we checked it out. I was disappointed that it wasn't a walking beach.
This is a part of a memorial to AIDS victims constructed on Higgs Beach
Higgs Beach faces the Atlantic.
I wasn't exaggerating when I said that roosters and hens could be found everywhere on the island. These two are on the roof of a Jeep parked on the street.
We didn't get much of a sunset the night we went to Mallory Square to see it. But at least we got a chance to check out the popular sunset spot looking out into the Gulf of Mexico.
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