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Thursday, June 30, 2016

411 Truman Avenue, Key West

San Francisco isn't the only place with Chic Chicks, Painted Ladies that is. Key West has its own Painted Ladies. They hold court nightly under the street lamps on Truman Avenue between Duval Street and Whitehead Street.
Alex Cammerer wrote about the four painted ladies in his book THE HOUSES OF KEY WEST. He said "...they differ only in window and door treatments. Most probably they were built by one of the cigar factories for rental to employees, the most common origin of shotgun houses in Key West. Some shotgun houses in Key West would call this a Classical Revival house, but the lack of classic proportions and the minimal pediment treatment place it in the shotgun camp. This example has been decorated by brackets and door and window surrounds. Since each of the group of four has different detailing, they were probably originally all quite plain and economically built."
June 2016
The listing Realtor describes 411 Truman Avenue (the Pink Lady above) this way"
"Location, location, location! One of the most photographed houses in Key West! This classic Conch cottage has appeared in the NY Times Travel Section and Fodor's travel guides. Located in Old Town on same block as Key West Lighthouse and the Hemingway House, and within walking distance of every great downtown restaurant, shop, gallery and museum. Off-street parking, sunny loft with treetop view, impact windows and central AC. HMDR zoning allows approved in-home business. Unique, charming and totally turnkey. Well cared for. Great neighborhood. Easy to love."
The mls listing shows this 800 square foot house has two bedrooms and one bath. There is an addition on the west side where one of the bedrooms is located. However, if you climb that ladder in the kitchen, you will a second floor air conditioned loft being uses as a third bedroom. That's a great place for your unemployed brother-in-law to stay when he loses his job up north and decides to move-in with you until he "finds" himself. Wait a minute, he'd have really quick access to sneak down at night and eat you out of house and home. All kidding aside, the loft adds a lot of usable living and storage space.
There is a nice private outdoor living area located on the backside of the off street parking. Let me remind readers that there are few homes in Old Town priced under one million dollars with off street parking. This house has most of the things second home buyers have on their must have needs when first starting to search for a house. This home is offered at just $549,000.

I searched the Historic Sanborn Fire Maps to determine the approximate time 411 Truman Avenue was built and found the house known as 411 Division Street first appeared on the 1889 Map. The earlier Sanborn Maps showed the Sideman Lachman Cigar Factory as occupying that spot. The building on the corner was simply identified as "Negro Sales". Division Street later became Truman Avenue.  While trying to find the date Division Street became Truman Avenue I found the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF STEPHEN MORENO WHALTON whereupon I learned that before Division Street got that name, it was previously known as Rocky Road. Mr. Whalton* further wrote:
"Another event in my life that I have never forgotten happened when I was about seven years old, at that time there were a very few houses on the Southeast side of our Truman Avenue, most of that part of the Island was a wilderness, my grandfather and my father raised quite a number of horses in the woods of Key West, and my grandfather gave me a horse and my father had him broken to harness and saddle, this was a stallion, and somewhat mean. The only time that I was put on his back, was on a Sunday morning, when one of my father’s hired men put me on him without a saddle, as soon as he got out of the yard, he started to run, and I was too small to stop him, there was a man coming up the street who stood with his arms open,but when my horse got near this man, he made a quick turn to go by him, and landed me on a flint rock, I recovered from that accident in about six weeks, but I never had a chance to get even with that horse, as my father sold him before I became old enough to handle him. This was the end of the events of my early childhood, which have remained fresh in my memory down through the years, due of course, to the fact, that they made a great impression on my mind at the time of happening."
The above photo was taken of 400 block of Truman Avenue from the Key West lighthouse in the 1920's. 411 Truman is in the bottom left corner. The old Newman Methodist Church sits across the street. The church is still there today and can be seen in the outdoor dining area above. This neighborhood is close to Duval, the Hemingway House, the Southernmost Point, South Beach, Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park and Beach, and is withing easy walking distance that brings so many people to our island city. 411 Truman Avenue would make a great home or second home for someone who appreciates life on a smaller scale.

CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet and listing photos. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule a private showing.  I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.
 *There are two different streets in Key West named after Stephen Moreno Whalton. I happen to live on one at the corner of Whalton Street and Von Phister Street in the Casa Marina area. The other street is Whalton Lane which is accessed off Duval Street between Truman and Olivia Streets. Mr. Whalton's boyhood home was located there. And that house is located to the north rear of what is now 411 Truman Avenue.

CLICK HERE to read the  "Autobiography of Stephen Moreno Whalton". It's great reading if you love Key West. I promise.

Monday, June 27, 2016

323 Fleming Street, Key West - Investment Property

The Case for Buying a Law Office Biding in Key West
The listing Broker aptly describes the office building located at 323 Fleming Street in Key West as
"Spectacular, Historic two-story concrete block building in the heart of Old Town. Additional lot provides off street parking for 4 cars and serves the offices currently in use here. Directly across the street from City offices and the Courthouse and adjacent to the US Post Office on beautiful Fleming Street. Separate offices upstairs and down, wrap-around covered porches overlooking Street on both floors, tall ceilings inside with lots of wood floors, elaborate wood trim, private offices, reception areas, updated bathrooms and storage. Building is in great condition. This is a beautiful building."
 I dug around in my old shoebox and found an aerial photo of this part of town which was taken in the 1930s. I added an arrow to point out the location of 323 Fleming Street. The larger white building in front is the old Monroe County Courthouse. The court house was built in 1890 and it originally was painted white. That block changed immensely in the 90 years since the black and white photo was taken. The old courthouse was remodeled into county office buildings. The court house annex to the north was added in 1965. A large administrative building was added at the southwest corner as well. The large white building to the left rear of 323 Fleming is the former Cosmopolitan Hotel which was located on Caroline and Front Street (razed).
The above photo was taken in the 1920s and shows the old courthouse, the old county jail, and courthouse grounds. 323 Fleming Street is noted on this photo. Take note of the group of buildings opposite of the courthouse in the 500 block of Whitehead Street. Most of those buildings still exist today and all are either law offices or offices and a combination of some residential housing except for one guesthouse. Two of the buildings at the corner of Southard were razed and are now tourist related commercial. Several of the larger buildings in the 600 block of Whitehead are law offices with a couple of small guest houses thrown in. The small cottages in the foreground were razed. That block is now a county parking lot.
I understand 323 Fleming was originally built for the US Government. I believe the use was related to the military as was most of the ground in what is now Truman Annex. This building was sold by the US Post Office to a private party in 2000. The deed restricts the purchaser, successors, and assigns to comply with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards of Rehabilitation. That essentially means a subsequent owner will have a really tough time altering the historical architecture of this building. Today this 2408 sq ft building is used as legal offices. The building and adjacent parking lot sit on two adjacent parcels totaling 4611 sq ft lot. As you look at the photos which follow and read the comments I write, remember that this building was built by the United States Government. That says a lot because the government does not build cheap. It builds substantial, and it builds to last. It does not cut corners to save a buck. As a prospective buyer your long term building maintenance costs should be less as compared to a stick built building.
The above photos demonstrate the pure aesthetic beauty of this old building, and suggest the rationale for buying a law office located just steps from the courthouse. I am not a building inspector but I have a lot of experience in showing houses and buildings in Key West. I did not see any deferred maintenance. The concrete block is solid and well maintained. The metal roof was replaced in 2007 as was the HVAC and other interior features. There is no better location than this for a law firm or a building with individual offices rented to solo practitioners. Accountants or other professionals who deal with the county on a routine basis might also find the location a substantial benefit.
The main floor offices could function very well for a small firm or a group of solo practitioners. There is a central reception area and administrative assistant area. There are four offices on this floor one of which is so large it could be divided to create two smaller offices. Another office (immediately above) is so special that it could serve as a conference room as opposed to law office.
The second floor offices offer several different scenarios to an investor including rental of individual offices to solo practitioners with shared secretarial, document processing, and conference room use. This floor has three offices, conference room, substantial file storage space, and bathroom in addition to that magnificent wrap-around second floor deck. One very simple reason a lawyer would prefer to be located near the courthouse is the probability he or she is a litigator or that a large part of his practice involves court appearances. Remember the parking spaces, a lot of the law offices I mentioned on Whitehead Street do not have parking for clients. So while the offices may be close to the courthouse, they do not provide client parking.  Some share the building with apartments where clients may get to smell what's for dinner or hear dogs barking. While the excuse "This is Key West" works for some folks, clients who are paying huge legal fees expect and deserve better.
Finally, look back up at the black and white aerial photos and consider both this building and this location from the standpoint of scarcity. You will see this area of town has a limited number of buildings which currently exist and fewer buildings which could be razed or even renovated to create new office buildings. The city will not allow an existing residential use to be eliminated to create a new business use even in a area zoned for the specific business use. I think as the years pass by, this particular property will appreciate in value to a greater extent than the multi-purpose buildings on Whitehead and nearby streets. As our society becomes more litigious, there will be a greater demand for lawyers and law offices. 

CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet on 323 Fleming Street which is offered for sale at $1,275,000. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

611 Southard Street #5, Key West - Transient Licensed Condo in Old Town

Just Listed 611 Southard Street Unit #5, Key West, Florida. A total of eight unique units make up the historic Hollinshed House Condominiums located at the tip-top of Solaris Hill in Key West. This 577 sq ft third floor garret is one of five units in this building. There are three additional units located next door at 609 Southard Street. The historic building was built circa 1874.  The unit is an unpretentious one bedroom with lots of space for relaxed living. It has all of the modern amenities but retains the charm of the historic house.  And it has a very valuable asset that few condominiums on Old Town have - a transient rental license which allows an owner to rent the unit on a daily every day of the year.
611 Southard St as it appeared in 1965
The listing Realtor describes this property thus:
"Great opportunity to own an Old Town well established transient licensed apartment. The Hollinsed House (circa 1880's) was converted to 8 condominiums many years ago and has been well maintained and managed since then. Unit #5 is a large one bedroom unit on the third floor of the property. It has a queen bed, sleeper sofa, dining area, and private porch. Hollinsed House has a heated pool and lovely patio area and is conveniently located near the corner of Southard and Simonton St."
If you take a couple of moments to study the photos above you'll soon discover that the building is a Key West eyebrow house. Look back at the top photo of today's blog. See the multiple sets of windows located above the French doors on the second floor front porch. Those windows permitted the occupants of the historic house to have ventilation in the days way before air conditioning and probably before electric ceiling fans were invented. The covered porch allowed air to move about while still keeping water from getting inside the space. They also shaded the interior which otherwise might get warm.
Notice also the Dade County Pine walls and ceiling. So many places today have been gussied up so much with drywall, crown moldings, and engineered floors that we forget how quaint the old houses really are. Their simple beauty is what attracts many returning guests to come back to Key West year after year. I know a lot of people like the amenities offered at luxury hotels, but there are those other travelers who prefer to stay in a place that is unapologeticaly simple. This unit is for that owner or that traveler.
The bedroom is located in the rear addition of the building.  Skylights were added to bring light into this space. The guest closet is located at the side rear and the owner's lockout closet is at the far rear.
The living room has a little niche off to the left where French doors open out to the rear "deck". This is the emergency exit but it is also a really private space for gathering one's thoughts.
CLICK HERE to view more photos that I took of this unit and the grounds.  The bricked courtyard includes a small semi-covered area with a bar-b-que, access to the laundry, plus two first come first served off street parking spaces.
611 Southard Street #5 is offered for sale at $525,000. CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet and listing photos. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing of this transiently licensed condo located near everything. You just cannot ask for a more convenient location. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.


The information on this site is for discussion purposes only. Under no circumstances does this information constitute a recommendation to buy or sell securities, assets, real estate, or otherwise. Information has not been verified, is not guaranteed, and is subject to change.


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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.