Key West Historic Landmarks
June 15, 2019
Historic Key West
The island of Key West features a long and very rich history for such a small place.
Spanish treasure fleets plied the waters just offshore on the route between Spain and the New World. British-Americans settled the island and the nearby Bahamas during and after the American Revolution.
Later, sea-going fortune seekers used Key West as a base while working the Florida Keys waters for sponges, shrimp, fish, turtles, and the salvage from ships that fell victim to the local storms, shallows, and reefs.
Key West is the historic jump-off point for travel and trade with Cuba and played an important role in keeping America supplied with quality rum and good cigars. The easy access to Cuba led the island to become home base for PanAm airlines and the early days of international air travel.
As a strategic location, Key West has been and still is favored as a site for military bases and forts. The island is home to Naval Air Station Key West and US Coast Guard Sector Key West.
Many vestiges of Key West’s colorful past remain, and a short walk or bike ride around the city can take residents through hundreds of years of Key West history.
Old Town Key West
The largest designated historic district in the United States, Old Town Key West and the surrounding neighborhoods contain 2495 historic buildings and four structures. Highlights include the Southernmost House, the Key West Cemetery, Mallory Square, the Harry S. Truman Little White House, and the Ernest Hemingway House.
Key West Historic Seaport
Located in the Key West bight, a wide bay and protected harbor on the northwest side of the island, the seaport district has been a hub of economic activity in Key West for over 200 years. It is now the site of many restaurants, bars, tourist shops, boutiques, and watersports concessions.
Home of the world-famous Key West Sunset Celebration, the Mallory Square waterfront area has historically been a key feature of Key West commercial life. James Audubon wrote about enjoying the sunset from Mallory Square in the early 1800s. The square was the center of the wrecking industry that revolved around salvaging goods from ships caught on the shoals and reefs around Key West. It was also the muster point for American troops during four wars.
Fort Zachary Taylor
This pre-Civil War brick fort is one of Key West’s most important historic sites. Built of stone and masonry between 1845 and 1861 and originally situated about 1,000 feet offshore, the fort housed a naval gun battery that guarded the ship channel off the west tip of Key West. During the Civil War, the fort was headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s East Gulf Coast blockade squadron that prevented Confederate supply ships from reaching ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Now, it is the centerpiece of 87-acre Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, location of one of Key West’s best public beaches.
The Harry S. Truman Little White House
This historic house at 111 Front Street on the western edge of Key West is the former residence of the commandant of the Key West Naval Base. U.S. President Harry Truman used it as a home and headquarters between November 1946 and March 1952 when he visited the island 11 times. Later presidents also used the house, and inventor Thomas Edison stayed there for 6 months during World War I.
Own a Slice of Key West History
Key West is unique in the large number of historic structures to be found within the city. If you are interested in a beautifully restored Victorian mansion or a quaint Conch cottage, you will find no better resource for your search than the Key West experts at Bascom Grooms Real Estate. The Bascom Grooms team can put multiple generations of local knowledge and more than 20 years of Key West real estate experience to work for you. Call or email to explore the historic homes of Key West: (305) 748-2057 / Info@bascomgrooms.com