Category Archives: Key West History

TAKE A PEEK INTO YOUR KEY WEST HOME’S PAST

Back in 1965, the Monroe County Property Appraiser’s office took on the arduous task of taking a Polaroid photograph to document every structure in the county. The resulting group of 4,470 architectural images offers an extraordinary glimpse into a time in Key West history just before homes and commercial structures began to be restored en masse. It is surprising (if not shocking) to see how rundown much of the island’s buildings were at the time. The collection serves as a testament to the commitment of countless individuals that have—over the past fifty years—invested their money, blood, sweat, and tears into returning Key West’s historic structures to their previous glory.

Photo taken by the Property Appraiser's office c1965;  1405 Olivia St.; built c1906; Tract 7, Sqr 2, Pt Lot 13

Photo taken by the Property Appraiser’s office c1965; 1405 Olivia St.; built c1906; Tract 7, Sqr 2, Pt Lot 13

1405 Olivia Street as seen today.

1405 Olivia Street as seen today.

The treasure trove of photos was endowed to the Monroe County Public Library in Key West. Luckily, the library has made the entire collection available online at http://bit.ly/keyspix.

Click here to visit the website and you will be able to explore a vast array of historic Keys photographs. The 1965 Property Appraiser’s Polaroids have been grouped together in the album The Way We Were—Key West 1960’s.

You can search for the 1965 picture of your Key West home by clicking on the search icon just above the photographs (not the Flickr search icon at the top of the page). Type in the number and street name only. Do not include Street, Avenue, Lane, etc. Undoubtedly, you will be delighted to see how your home looked over fifty years ago. Download the image to your computer and share it with family and friends. Frame a print and proudly hang it on the wall of your Key West dream home. The peek into your home’s past will surely spark many memorable conversations.

—Dean & Keith Townsend, The Townsend Team

Photo taken by the Property Appraiser's office c1965; 1209 Knowles Lane; built 1920's; Gwynn Sub, Pt Tract 13

Photo taken by the Property Appraiser’s office c1965; 1209 Knowles Lane; built 1920’s; Gwynn Sub, Pt Tract 13

Today, beautifully renovated 1209 Knowles Lane shines brightly.

Today, beautifully renovated 1209 Knowles Lane shines brightly.

Photo taken by the Property Appraiser's office c1965; 719 Eisenhower Dr. aka 720 Eisenhower Dr.; house was originally located on the water @719, c1975 house moved across the street to 720 Eisenhower; Tract 7, Lot 5

Photo taken by the Property Appraiser’s office c1965; 719 Eisenhower Dr. aka 720 Eisenhower Dr.; house was originally located on the water @719, c1975 house moved across the street to 720 Eisenhower; Tract 7, Lot 5

720 Eisenhower Drive has changed a great deal in the last half-century.

720 Eisenhower Drive has changed a great deal in the last half-century.

Photo taken by the Property Appraiser's office c1965; 813 Frances St.; built 1920's; Tract 6, Sqr 4, Pt Lot 10 & 11

Photo taken by the Property Appraiser’s office c1965; 813 Frances St.; built 1920’s; Tract 6, Sqr 4, Pt Lot 10 & 11

Beautiful 813 Frances Street today.

Lovely 813 Frances Street captivates today.

Photo taken by Prpoerty Appraiser's office c1965; 530 Grinnell Street; built 1923; Sqr 46, Pt Lot 1

Photo taken by Prpoerty Appraiser’s office c1965; 530 Grinnell Street; built 1923; Sqr 46, Pt Lot 1

One of the most charming cottages in Old Town Key West, 530 Grinnell Street as seen today.

One of the most charming cottages in Old Town Key West, 530 Grinnell Street as seen today.

Key West “Gypsy” Chickens

As proud citizens of Key West, we are always glad to help bewildered-looking tourists with directions or to answer their more than familiar and often entertaining questions. Besides are all time favorites— “Is there water on the other side of the island?” and “Do you have a sunset every night?”—we are amazed by how many people ask us, “What’s up with the chickens?”

What's the joke about the chicken crossing the road?

What’s the joke about the chicken crossing the road?

Often called Key West “Gypsy” chickens or Key West “Free-Range” chickens, the number of chickens on the island took a big leap in the 1860’s when waves of Cubans followed the cigar industry to Key West. Cockfighting was an extremely popular sport in Cuba and the immigrants brought their chickens with them. When cockfighting was finally outlawed in 1970, the chickens were emancipated, protected by law, and free to roam the island.

One of our favorite signs.

One of our favorite signs.

Proud Mama.

Proud Mama.

We have a love/hate relationship with the chickens. The roosters’ gorgeous plumage often warrants our highest compliments and we have marveled at the tenacity of many a hen when her chicks are being asked to lunch by a hungry hawk. Choice words have flown when a daydreaming rooster has suddenly stepped into the path of our bikes or after moving in next door, an early riser has awakened us before sunrise. Good or bad, Key West’s “Gypsy” chickens have attained celebrity status and are as woven into the colorful fabric of the island as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Jimmy Buffett.

Keith & Dean

Key West’s Theodore “Fats” Navarro

Theodore "Fats" Navarro, 1923-1950

Theodore “Fats” Navarro, 1923-1950

Without a doubt, the musician that is most often associated with Key West is the legendary Jimmy Buffett. Long before Parrotheads around the world were singing and dancing to Margaritaville, the world of jazz crowned Key West native Theodore “Fats” Navarro as one its greats.

Navarro was born in Key West in 1923 to Cuban-Black-Chinese parentage. While growing up on Thomas Street in Bahama Village, his mother, Miriam Williams, worked as a cook in the home of Earnest and Pauline Hemingway. Although Navarro began playing piano at age 6, he did not become serious about music until taking up the trumpet at 13. After graduating from Douglas High School and ready to see the world, he joined a dance band and headed for the Midwest.

As a trumpet player, Navarro was a pioneer of the bebop style of jazz improvisation in the 1940’s—playing with Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton. He is ranked with Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis as one of the most gifted and original stylists in the development of jazz. Theodore “Fats” Navarro died New York City, at the young age of 26, in 1950. Six days before his passing, he gave his final performance with Charlie Parker at the landmark jazz club Birdland.

Keith & Dean