Island history comes alive on Jan. 18-19

January 11, 2013 

623 Grinnell St. was built by a skilled carpenter in 1878.

The Old Island Restoration Foundation has five homes on its Jan. 18-19 tours, ranging from an 1890's classic to an even earlier Bahamian "saw-tooth" cabin that still retains it's "Lilliputian" charm.

These self-guided tours are open from 4-8 p.m. both days. Some tickets are available for purchase in advance aboard the Conch Train, which includes a tour guide to all five residences.

Tickets cost $30 and are available in advance. For credit card purchase, buy tickets online at www.oirf.org or call 305-294-9501.

Here's the lineup of homes for this January tour:

921 Whitehead A Key West Classic Revival rose near the corner of Whitehead and "Division Street" c. 1890. Photographers Edmund F. and Chas. Moffat were among its early residents. For decades this spacious three-level beauty had been divided into apartments. A complete renovation converted it to one splendid home. 421 Virginia Like many houses on this island, this vernacular cottage located a few steps off Duval has an uncertain history and has gone through many changes - including its location. Abandoned, deteriorated and close to demolition just a year ago, it is now a comfortable three bedroom, 2.5-bath in-town retreat. 623 Grinnell A skilled carpenter built this well-proportioned home c. 1878; a wood yard and workshop occupied the rear of the lot. Through expansions and updating (the latest completed in 2011), it has remained a serviceable family home throughout the years. Its design may be a key to the evolution of those "eyebrow" houses found only on Key West. 530 Grinnell Cigar makers occupied this tiny saw-tooth Bahamian cabin for decades after its 1870's construction. A clever and respectful transformation into compact modern living quarters kept all its Lilliputian charm and earned a Ceramic Star in 2012. 607-609 Ashe Street Laundresses, spongers and other hard-working Key Westers lived in humble homes near the military grounds in this corner of town. Now, the Armory on White is a successful arts studio and these neighboring cottages were rehabilitated to shelter visiting artists-in-residence. That craftsmanship merited a 2011 Ceramic Star.

In addition to online sales, tickets are also available for purchase by check or cash at: Capital Bank, (Old Town & North Roosevelt Branches in Key West); mile marker 30.4 on Big Pine Key; 2348 Overseas Hwy., Marathon. Also at Audio Video in Paradise, 1124 Key Plaza, and at Royal Furniture, 3326 N. Roosevelt Blvd., Key West.

During tour hours, tickets will also be sold at the featured houses - cash or check only. A limited number of advanced tickets include touring via Conch Train at no extra charge. Each train group will be led by a special guide. Reserve a seat by calling 305-294-9501. Choose a starting time of 3:45, 4:15, 4:45, 5:15 or 5:45 p.m. and plan on arriving at the Oldest House, 322 Duval St., Key West, at least 20 minutes before departure time.

Old Island Restoration Foundation, now celebrating their 53rd year, is "dedicated to preserving the architectural and cultural heritage of Key West." For more information, visit: www.oirf.org

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