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Quick Guide



Unique Key West Architecture Delights Visitors

Key West’s fascinating architectural history makes the Southernmost city perfect for walking tours. As everything else in Key West, diversity reigns. Styles range from simple shotgun homes to distinctive “eyebrow” houses and elegant “Conch Houses” that are a blend of Victorian, Bahamian and New England vernacular.

The earliest “conch houses” were not elegant mansions built by shipwrights, but the work of Bahamian settlers crafted from local materials; mortar (made from readily available sand, water and lime, from burning coral and seashells) and the then-abundant Queen Conch, a large spiral sea shell with a shiny, rosy pink lip was used as a brick. Conchs were also “planted” in the front yard of homes when a new baby was born – and Key Westers who were born here came to be called Conchs.

Key West’s historic houses have survived hurricanes, termites, neglect, and the Great Depression - a testament to the quality workmanship of the shipbuilders who built so many of these elegant homes. A walk along any Old Town Key West street is a stroll back in time.

Books on Key West Architecture

  • Portraits: Wooden Houses of Key West by Sharon Wells. Oout of print, but some copies are available through the author's art gallery. Wells is a local historian who often helps home owners substantiate period details and facts necessary during restorations and renovations of homes in the Key West Historic District.
  • The Houses of Key West - by Alex Caemmerer and available in paperback.

More Resources On Key West Architecture