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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Key West - Life in the Slow Lane

WPA photos depicting life on the lanes of Key West during the 1930s

1114 Elgin Lane circa 1965 - hanging laundry over the street would probably violate some city law today

I have written at least a couple of times recommending that readers quit their jobs and move to Key West. Some people fantasize about doing something so rash. Some people actually follow through and do the deed. Key West lures the sane and not-so-sane. People come here to find what is not possible to achieve elsewhere. Many of those who end up here adopt the manana way of looking at life and develop a system to rate things in life as to importance and then determine the speed within which tasks need to be completed. Government workers do the same thing. They just get paid a salary and receive benefits.

No matter what street a person lives on in Key West, all of us live our lives in the slow lane. For those Key Westers who actually reside on a lane, life is much slower and much quieter. Many of the lanes are less than a block long. Some lanes dead end within a matter of 150 feet or so from the street whence they began. Other lanes, like Elgin Lane, may run two blocks long. Lanes are typically narrow and many only permit travel in one direction. Some lanes such as Hunts Lane are so narrow that cars are not permitted. And a couple of lanes are so tiny that it is difficult to walk two-abreast. Lanes attract owners that want a slow paced and quiet lifestyle.

I am speaking of course of the 104 named lanes in Old Town Key West. In 1980 a Conch (native Key Wester) named C.W. (Billy) Pinder prepared a history of Key West lanes for the City Commission which he subtitled "A Bit of History, A lot of Dimension". He recited the name and location of each lane and suggested in his forwarding Memorandum that "the Police, Fire, Sewer and our department has expressed interest in this booklet" inferring that a lot of people in responsible positions did not know where some of the lanes were located. The reason is there are several lanes that have more than one name. Also there are a few lanes with the exact same lane which are located in totally different parts of town.

Here are but a few of the Key West lanes for your edification: Billygoat Lane is now known as Hibiscus Lane, the entrance to which is located next to 512 Grinnell Street. There are several very sweet little Key West cottages on this lane.

Hibiscus Lane with its darling little cottage homes

A hundred feet or so to the south Cornish Lane intersects off Grinnell Street

This little gem on Cornish Lane was recently completely renovated.

I remember showing the Cornish Lane house many times several years ago. It had been somewhat renovated in the 1970s or early 1980s but it just did not work. Buyers looked and buyers walked away complaining of all the work that the place would require. Lucky for this little house it got new owners who took on the project and ended up with a beautiful Key West cottage. This house used to sit behind a tall wood fence unseen by the world. What a striking difference it has become. All because one couple had vision and were willing to take on a project.

Lowe's Lane is located adjacent to 525 Grinnell Street opposite of Cornish Lane.

I believe this is Lowe's Lane as photographed in the 1930s. 525 Grinnell is the first house.

Same location photographed in 201o.

Canfield Lane abuts 618 Grinnell Street to the north and runs about 150 feet west. There are several very cute houses down this very quiet lane.

Carey Lane is also known as Thompson Alley --not to be confused with Thompson Lane . And please don't get Carey Lane confused with Curry Lane which is located between White Street and Frances. Curry Lane runs paralell between Fleming Street to the north and Southard Street to the south.

There are two Thompson Lanes -- one is located between Duval and Whitehead Street just south of Catherine Street and the other is located a mile away near the new Strunk Ace Hardware on Eaton Street. Imagine the poor fire dispatcher.

Carey Lane is about the cutest of the cute lanes in my opinion!

Carey Lane is the poster child for quintessential Key West charm.

And please don't get Carey Lane confused with Curry Lane which is located between White Street and Frances. Curry Lane runs parallel between Fleming Street to the north and Southard Street to the south.

Stump Lane is located about 200 feet south of Curry Lane and also runs between White Street and Frances Street.

1116 Stump Lane is one of many adorable Key West cottages on this lane.

One of my favorites has always been Peacon Lane (also now known as Gruntbone Alley). Peacon Lane is located directly opposite the former Calvin Klein House at 712 Eaton Street.

The former home of Calvin Klein at 712 Eaton Street.

Peacon Lane a/k/a Gruntbone Alley is located opposite the Klein house

1937 photo of same location but with fewer trees

Donkey Milk Lane runs about 150 feet west off Elizabeth Street.

Love Lane runs on either side of Southard Street. Who wouldn't want to own a home on a lane named Love? They say "Love don't cost a thing". But houses on Love Lane cost a' plenty.

There are several lanes located near the Key West cemetery. They include Passover Lane, Poorhouse Lane, Petronia Lane also known as Poorhouse Lane (its named both on one sign).

I remember when a dog or a cat could sleep in the middle of a street in Old Town. No more! Life on Poorhouse Lane is the last refuge for this kitty.

Passover Lane borders the Key West Cemetery on the west side. It also has dogleg dead end off to the west where it it becomes a narrow walking lane just wide enough for an owner to carry a bag of groceries down the graveled lane. There are only four houses on this dead end lane and each is a jewel.

I'm not trying to confuse you, Dear Reader, but Passover Lane becomes Windsor Lane where the two meet at the Key West Cemetery. Passover Lane ends and Windsor Lane begins as it jogs to southeast and then jogs south up to Truman. Windsor Lane has intersection with upper William Street about 150 feet before Windsor and Passover Lanes merge. William Street runs south and then bends east at the Bill Butler Park. All of a sudden William Street is gone and that becomes Poorhouse Lane if one moves east toward the cemetery or it becomes Petronia Lane or continues to be Poorhouse Lane if one heads south to the corner at Olivia Street. A street sign designates that same lane with two different names -- Petronia Lane and/or Poorhouse Lane.

Upper William Street doglegs off Windsor Lane as it prepares to merge with Passover Lane

Petronia Ln or Poorhouse Ln intersects with Olivia St between Elizabeth St and Windsor Ln


Carsten Lane runs to the south of Southard Street and takes a lazy curve between Margaret St and William St.

Some friends own a house on William Street and we often walk past this Carsten Lane cutie on our way to Michael's Restaurant.

If you have been dreaming of buying a place in Key West and are not working with a Realtor, please consider working with me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or contact me by email at I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West. Experience life in the slow lane, no matter what street you may live on.


Anonymous said...

so many lanes! so little inventory available on these quaint side streets that when one pops up it goes poof! and it is gone in an instant!

Anonymous said...

so true.

Anonymous said...

Gone in an instant except when the price is way out of wack. See love lane listings and the new poor house lane listing that will never sell for a million bucks

Anonymous said...

Hardly newsworthy that overprice Key West homes never sell. Check out the latest data - nothing moves unless cash buyers and well priced homes. Don't believe the hype that all is rosy here - faar from it. Too much shadow inventory and so many homes in distressed.

Also, you say overpriced on Poorhouse and Love Lanes. True. Also note these lanes are hardly big enough for a scooter to go down let alone a real vehicle.

Add to this the list Free School Lane, Schippens Lane, etc. Don't forget the alleys! Villa Mill comes to mind.

For those who want to read more - there is an entire book on Key West Lanes which I am sure Gary has used for his info. It is practically required reading by the Key West Association of Realtors aka KWAR.

Anonymous said...

Great post Gary...I'm always skiddish to walk down the deadend lanes as I feel like I'm trespassing...and those lucky dwellers get some insulation from some of the loudness of tourism...what a dream to own a cottage on a lane!

Gary Thomas said...

"as I feel like I'm trespassing..."

Great point. I was walking down Catholic Lane Saturday taking photos for today's blog. I had the same feeling, but I did not put it into the context of 'trespassing'. But you got it right.



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I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.