KEY WEST, Fla. — Architectural highlights on the continental United States’ southernmost island range from charming 19th-century cottages to ornate period mansions decorated with intricate wooden “gingerbread” trim. Visitors can explore homes embodying this stylistic heritage as well as contemporary gems during weekend home tours in December 2019 and January, February and March 2020.
Now in their 60th year, the annual tours are presented by the nonprofit Old Island Restoration Foundation, which was established in 1960 to promote the restoration and preservation of Key West’s historically significant buildings. The 2020 home tours are among events celebrating the OIRF’s 60th anniversary of safeguarding the island city’s architectural and cultural traditions.
Tours are planned Friday and Saturday Dec. 27-28, Jan. 17-18, Feb. 14-15 and March 13-14. Each tour showcases five homes chosen for their contribution to the Key West community as significant historic buildings, creative renovations or examples of the Florida Keys lifestyle.
Key West’s Old Town contains what is believed to be the largest predominantly wooden historic district in the United States with almost 3,000 structures. Many were constructed by shipbuilder-carpenters and cigar manufacturing barons in the 1800s, so the island’s architecture reflects the building styles and cultures of its early inhabitants.
In part because of the OIRF’s work in raising awareness about the historic value of Key West structures, today scores of lovingly restored properties flourish as single-family homes, bed-and-breakfast guesthouses and museum attractions. The historic district and its restorations have drawn attention and honors from organizations including the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
During the house tours, OIRF volunteers serve as guides at each tour stop, informing visitors about each featured house’s history, architecture, décor and other elements. Tour participants can discover unique interiors filled with art collections and antiques as well as lush gardens and imaginatively designed outdoor living areas.
The December tours, spotlighting homes and gardens decorated for the holidays, are set for 3-7 p.m. both evenings and participants provide their own transportation. January’s tours also run 3-7 p.m. and offer the option of traveling aboard selected Conch Tour Trains. The February and March tours are slated for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with participants responsible for their own transportation.
Tickets for each tour cost $35 per person ($45 with Conch Train transportation or on tour days) and can be purchased in advance at keywesthometours.com. VIP tickets for the entire series can be purchased for $112 per person.