Key West, the most southerly point in the United States, boasts many fascinating old houses. This is one of them. Built in 1845, this house was built in a nineteenth-century Florida vernacular architectural style known as a conch house. Whence the name? Bahamian immigrants, known as “conchs,” were the earliest builders in the area. Given that many of them were experienced boat builders, the earliest houses in Key West were wood-framed like ships. Conch houses are designed to make the best of a tropical climate before the existence of air conditioning: the house is set on posts that allow air to circulate underneath; there are high ceilings, large windows, and porches to catch cool breezes wafting in off the ocean; louvered shutters protect windows during inclement weather.
In addition to its signature conch house features, this house offers one very special feature rarely found outside of south Florida: paneling fashioned from Dade County Pine, once the most important pine species in southern Florida, the only place it grew. The Pine Rocklands once covered 185,000 acres of Miami-Dade County, but the tree is now all but extinct due to over-logging. By 1996, only 2% of the pine forest remained. The wood is resistant to both rot and termites and is one of the hardest lumber products in the world — perfect for building houses in a salty and damp climate. The wood’s hardiness to the musty and humid climate meant that the trees, which could grow up to 100 feet high and three feet in diameter, were harvested to near-extinction by the early 20th century, and the timber is almost impossible to get now, except when reclaimed from other uses. In this house, you can see the beautifully preserved pine paneling in the stair hall, living room, and master bedroom.
Originally owned by one of Key West’s founding families, this house has been through a lot: hurricanes, the Civil War, and, well, even more hurricanes. Fortunately, its current owners thoroughly restored and renovated everything inside and out. With its bright green shutters, white picket fence, and lush gardens, the property is bursting with charm. Listed by Brenda Donnelly at Berkshire Hathaway Knight & Gardner Realty, the place is asking $6.999 million. That includes the main house, guest cottage, and garage. In all, there are five bedrooms and 5.5 baths, including three main-floor primary suites, in a total of 4,373 square feet.
The plot is just under a quarter of an acre and includes a freeform saltwater pool and spa along with plenty of decks, terraces and porches to make the most of the sweet Florida breezes. The interior has been decorated to perfection with an old-Florida plantation style, and the kitchens and bathrooms are up to date. And, wth a whole-house generator, the house is also ready for when the next hurricane that knocks power out to the remote constellation of islands. Anyone who appreciates the historic charm of old Key West will love this house.