KEY WEST, Fla. — Architectural highlights on the continental United States’ southernmost island range from small 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 January, February and March 2023.
The annual tours are presented by the nonprofit Old Island Restoration Foundation. Established in 1960 to promote the restoration and preservation of Key West’s historically significant buildings, the OIRF is dedicated to safeguarding the island city’s architectural and cultural traditions.
Tours are planned Friday and Saturday Jan. 13-14, Feb. 17-18 and March 17-18. Each weekend features approximately five homes chosen for their contribution to the Key West community as significant historic buildings, creative renovations or examples of the Florida Keys lifestyle.
“OIRF selects homes that showcase all sizes, ages, architectural features, family history, rehabilitation projects and island prominence,” said Nance Frank, the organization’s board chair.
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.
All tours are set for 1-4 p.m. and participants provide their own transportation. OIRF volunteers serve as docents at each featured home, informing visitors about its 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.
Tickets for each tour cost $55 per person ($45 for OIRF members) when purchased in advance through oirf.org/home-tours/ or $60 at the door on tour days.
Tour information: oirf.org/home-tours/ or 305-294-9501
Old Town Key West contains what is believed to be the largest predominantly wooden historic district in the United States. Photo: Carol Tedesco
Visitors can view interiors filled with antiques and art as well as imaginatively planned outdoor living spaces.
Docents are to guide all tours, offering insights into each property’s history, architecture and other attributes.