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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Simply, Elegant! 522 Grinnell Street - Old Town - Key West

522 Grinnell Street - Old Town - Key West

The listing Realtor describes 522 Grinnell Street as:
"There is an exceptional opportunity to continue the renovation of this beautiful home in a highly sought after location. This historically significant home built prior to 1884 has always been admired for its beautiful architecture including Dade County Pine walls and ceilings throughout, grand proportion room sizes with twelve foot ceilings on the first floor and eleven foot ceilings on the second floor. The current owner has completed all of the demolition work and this wow factor potential home is ready for completion by a new owner with the style and manner they desire. This property is licensed for two units."

522 Grinnell Street as photographed in 1965

Peeling paint of yore - now gone

Restored bay window on opposite side of the house

I have shown this property numerous times over the past several years. I fell in love with the place before I ever went inside. It has looked sad and forlorn for years. The paint was peeling and chipping away, but I knew that could be fixed. A window on the south side was broken and covered by an Al Gore for President sign, but I knew it could be replaced. An odd looking carport on the right side diminished the grandeur of the house, but I was sure there would be a way to deal with that issue. The rear of the house had a cobbled addition that looked awful, but I imagined that wreck could get removed and a new two tiered rear porch could be added in its place.

First floor front porch

Rear addition has been removed - what will take its place?

The former owner's family had lived in this property for generations. The current owner is not related to the prior owners. My remarks about the prior owners are not intended to disparage anyone. Contrarily, I relish the somewhat odd experiences I had when I showed the house. I recall the story the former owner telling that this house, like so many of the grand old homes in Key West, was built by ship chandlers. That means the house was built by the men who built great sailing vessels that could withstand strong winds and the elements. I will never forget standing with her on the second floor front porch as she recounted having watched a storm coming across from the Atlantic side of the island as it made its way toward the Gulf of Mexico a couple of blocks to the north. She remarked about how strong her father was during that storm and how well the house withstood the winds and rain.

The current owner purchased this property in 2006 after the house was marketed by not less than four different agents over a four year period. The prior owner never allowed any listing agent to show the property. The owner did it. She took charge and told and re-told the family's history in the house. I imagine she did not want some Realtor to get the facts wrong or to fail to state an essential point about the property. After one showing I remember my buyer saying something like "No wonder she hasn't sold the house..." and then said something unflattering about the owner. But I got why the former owner was so proud of the house. It is, as the current Realtor says, "admired for its beautiful architecture".


If you look at the photo of the house above you would expect the front door to be the door on the front porch. You would be wrong. The main entry is actually located on the side porch to the right. The entry hall is rather unassuming. The stairway, however, is ever-so-graceful. I love the thin stiles and deep dark and delicate handrail, especially as is curves and makes a you turn toward the top handrail. Once inside there are multiple large rooms with twelve foot ceilings. Rooms of this size do not blend easily with the way live our modern lives, but there are people who crave the sophisticated single purpose rooms of yesteryear. This house has many such rooms for that buyer. One such room is the formal dining room with a fireplace. It looks sad now, but most houses look sad while they are 'under construction'. I'll bet you that it won't look sad by the time the renovation is completed.

The ever-so-graceful stairway

One of two bay windows in this home

Originally the main parlor - would this become your Great Room?

Dining room with fireplace - would this be your new kitchen?

Renovated front and side porches with new doors

The rooms upstairs have been stripped away as well. The family kitchen was located at the rear of the second floor. I remember the former owner's mother sitting at the kitchen table coddling a box of new born kittens during one showing. The older woman always sat in that kitchen and always smiled as potential buyers passed by her table. The memories of the ancient matriarch and her progeny are all that remain of the events that occurred during the hundred years her family lived in this old house

Photo taken where an old shed used to stand

Room for a pool in this large rear yard

The current owner has removed the old addition at the rear and cleaned up the interior. It will be up to the new owner to complete this house. While I am not a builder, I have a good sense of the work ahead which will include installation of all new electric throughout the house, new water and sewer lines, new HVAC, installing new bathrooms, a kitchen, a pool, and landscaping. I heard that the approved plans call for the addition of a new two story rear porch. I remember telling perspective buyers that is what I would do if I owned the house. The house did not need the old falling apart addition. It is gone and now there is room for a porch where I can imagine there will be space off the master suite at the second floor rear where the new owners can sit and ponder the meaning of life (or anything else).

The thing is a new owner can finish off the interior of this beautiful home in the way he or she or they may want.

522 Grinnell Street is offered at $1,450,000. CLICK HERE to view the Key West Association of Realtors mls datasheet and to view the listing photos. Better yet, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule a showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida.


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Key West, Florida, United States
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.