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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

621 Catholic Lane, Key West ~ Charming Wooden Cottage with an Historic Past

Just Listed 621 Catholic Lane, a charming wooden cottage located near the "dead end" of one of the slowest lanes in Key West. The lane is entered off Angela Street, itself a one-way street from heading west from Frances Street to Margaret abutting the Key West cemetery to the south.
This simple home was once owned by author Evan Rhodes (The Prince of Central Park among others). I found a photo of Rhodes and other Key West writers taken at Higgs Beach in 1984, the first year I came to this island that would become my home. I borrowed the photo from the Key West Literary Seminar.
From top left: James Merrill, Evan Rhodes, Edward Hower, Alison Lurie, Shel Silverstein, Bill Manville, Joseph Lash, Arnold Sundgaard, John Williams, Richard Wilbur, Jim Boatwright. From bottom left: Susan Nadler, Thomas McGuane, William Wright, John Ciardi, David Kaufelt, Philip Caputo, Philip Burton, John Malcolm Brinnin.

Of this photo Arlo Haskle wrote:
"How many words is a picture worth if its subjects have penned more than many thousands of bestselling words apiece, already read by tens of thousands of readers? If in their beach bags are five Pulitzer Prizes, a few National Book Awards, two Bollingen Prizes, and office stationery from the U.S. Poet Laureate?"
In researching this house I found reference that Rhodes "finds he writes best in the garden of his house, wearing a bathing suit." As I was taking photos yesterday, I figured out why that was. The house does not have central air. The current owner relies on natural cooling (doors opened for cross ventilation). The heat yesterday was sweltering. The shade under the large canopy trees in the garden would provide cool relief for anyone be they a writer or not.
I have sold the homes of two famous writers, John Hersey (Hiroshima, A Bell for Adano) at the Key West Writer's Compound and James Leo Herlihy (The Midnight Cowboy) on Bakers Lane. There is something different yet common about homes where writers lived - they are set apart from the rest of the world and they are simple homes with quiet spaces where they can reflect and create. Tourists won't likely find this house, there isn't even a street sign to identify its existence. 
I found the above photo of 621 Catholic Lane which was taken a little over 50 years ago. The home sits high above the ground. The four front posts supporting the roof and the louvered door and windows and been replaced. The old aluminum awing was taken down. New thinner posts with balustrade were added as were pediments above the windows. The most striking feature is the bougainvillea hedge that insulates the house from public view. A new owner might consider taking that down to reveal how striking a home this place is.
The front door opens into a warm and inviting center hall that leads to the great room at the rear, the office to the left, and the master bedroom to the right. Dade County Pine and newer wood are evident throughout the house. While the house has been updated, the character of the original house still remains.
The great room has this big vaulted ceiling which adds so much dimension to this living space. The rear opens out to covered porches on either side which expand the living are greatly.
The first room I went into after I entered the house was the office. What an interesting place this is. Even though Mr. Rhodes preferred the outdoors, I could imagine this space to be a great place to read or write the next Great American Novel.
French doors open out from the ground floor master bedroom onto the front porch. Another set of louvered doors provide privacy from street view although I don't think anyone could see through the dense bougainvillea even if they tried.  Still it's nice to have the privacy in this little cocoon of a bedroom. The bath is located behind the closed door.
I assume a prior owner converted the attic space into a second floor bedroom and bath. A skylight floods the stairway with light and also introduces light to the great room below. A dormer was also added as were two rear second floor balconies. Our Historic Architectural Review Commission might not not allow a skylight or a dormer to be installed today. (They don't allow a lot of things that made Key West so eclectic and so interesting.) I snapped a photo of the guest cottage of the house next door. The views from the balcony are really sweet. Once you see this home, you'll understand why people choose places like this live. They are charming, quiet, and cozy.
621 Catholic Lane first appeared on the Historic Sanborn Fire Map of 1889. The house was not given a street numerator until 1912 when the street was still known as Fiat Ct. I was not able to find out when the street name was changed to Catholic Lane. Today there is not even a street sign to let passers-by that the street even has a name.
The house has 1542 sq ft interior living space under interior roof plus substantial covered outdoor space in front and rear. The current owner told me a previous owner added the rear porch. Most of the renovations look to have been added sometime after 1984 when Evan Rhodes sold the home to the prior owner. A new owner could leave this home as is and move in the day after closing. Or maybe a new owner might do something to recreate the interiors and re-work the back porch. I think this space could be magical. The lot measures 50.25' X 94.25' (4736 sq ft) which is quite large for Old Town. Much of rear lot is covered with brick. But it is the huge canopy tree with abundant shades that makes this space so interesting. A new owner might be able to obtain permission to add a pool. CLICK HERE to view more photos of the house and this pretty lane. You really need to look at these photos.
Located across Catholic Lane
621 Catholic Lane is offered for sale at $950,000 by Preferred Properties, that's where I work but this is not my listing. CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet on this home. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing of this special home. I am a buyers agent and full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.


Anonymous said...

link to mls goes nowhere and the home doesn't seem to be on the mls. What's the deal?

Gary Thomas said...

None of the mls links are working at this time. I have no control over this. Hopefully the links will be restored in short order.

Anonymous said...

My street did not have a sign either. My husband made a sign and nailed it to the telephone pole at the corner. It took almost two years of visiting City Hall to get a street sign installed.

Anonymous said...

Still not on MLS

Gary Thomas said...

The mls link is now working.

Gary Thomas said...

Regarding the missing street sign - several months ago a FACEBOOK friend posted a photo of the telephone pole at the corner of United and Packer Streets. The bottom of the pole was painted white and the street names were painted in black. The problem was they were painted incorrectly. United was shown and Packer. And you get it...

The city is too busy figuring out how to spend all the tourist bed tax income. They want to build big projects.



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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.