IN THE BEGINNING The black and white aerial photo below was taken in 1941. It shows the point where US 1 enters onto the Island of Key West. Those patches of low-lying ground and water later would be filled to create new solid earth upon which several 1950s vintage motels would be built. The first was the Holiday Inn built in the upper right quadrant. The original Holiday Inn was razed a little over a decade ago and re-emerged in 2006 as the new Beachside Resort Condominiums which today operates as a luxury hotel under the Marriott Hotel flag. The Holiday Inn briefly relocated across North Roosevelt Boulevard only to be torn down a couple of years later as a part of the renovation of these hotels began. Most of the old Holiday Inn was razed and new buildings built. The other hotels were stripped and redone in place with new buildings added.
The old motels did their job of housing the tourists who motored their way down to Key West. Motel rooms were cheap for several decades as was much of town. That was part of the draw of this little town located so far away from America. It was cheap, fun, and far away from the rest of the world. But all of that changed when the TDC started spending huge amounts of sales tax revenue to promote Key West and the Florida Keys as travel destinations. The Florida Keys became immensely successful as a destination resort. Room prices and housing prices raised in response to the demand for hotel rooms and services.
Welcome to the Island of Key West. Work had already begun in 2013 when I began to take photos of the former Days Inn and other hotels located where US 1 enters the island of Key West. I actually stayed at the Days Inn one night in 2007 while my house was being tented for termites. The room was dark, stinky, and just plain hideous. I faulted myself for choosing the cheapest place to save a few bucks. And then I realized some people save their money all year long to come to Key West for their annual vacation. And many of them stay at places like this for a reason - to save a few bucks. The newly renovated and expanded hotels won't be cheap. Today's blog will show progressive photos of each hotel.
DAYS INN to FAIRFIELD INN & SUITES
HOLIDAY INN to HILTON INN & SUITES
By the time I came up with the idea of photographing this project, the construction (or destruction) crew had taken down most of the Holiday Inn. I snapped away at what remained and returned on Saturdays and Sundays to take progress shots. This was and is the first sight most visitors see after crossing the Cow Key Channel bridge as the enter Key West.
LEXINGTON HOTEL to HILTON GARDEN INN and SUITES
This renovation was much different than the old Holiday Inn next door. The skin and balconies of the old hotel were stripped and replaced. The rooms were gutted and redone. If you haven't been to Key West in three years you probably wouldn't notice the change except the changed name.
THE WELCOME CENTER AND CONCH TRAIN DEPOT
This place stayed untouched during most of the hotel renovation. I got ticked off each time I drove by or walked by this tacky place. The owners make so much money from tourists. I thought they were going to leave their operation the way it was - trapped-in-time. But as the hotels neared completion most of the old buildings came down. Recently, the owners announced plans to build new commercial and residential units here. If I correctly remember what I read in the Key West Citizen, the owners acquired all housing allocations for next year which will be used to build this new property.
QUALITY INN to THE GATES
The Quality Inn renovated the older hotel rooms and built a new lobby and guest amenities including pool and bar. The former Splash Bar is now Rum Row.
The facade at the Comfort Inn changed dramatically as new exterior balconies were added. The new balconies provide covered walk ways from the elevators and also improved the facade. The rooms were gutted and renovated. The original ground floor at the Comfort Inn used to include a Denny's. A customer of mine was in the military and treated me to lunch there one day in 2005. He was an aircraft control operator at Boca Chica Naval Air Station near Key West. He took his job so seriously. He did not drink. He told me he couldn't because other peoples lives depended on him. (I wish some civilian pilots were as cautious as this young man.) He got a 10% discount at Denny's. Thank you, Denny's, for being one business that gives back to our community.
During the same time period a second hotel was being constructed at the southern end of Old Town. An historic group of 1950s vintage buildings were razed to allow for the construction of a building more suited to Miami Beach than Old Town Key West.
SPENDRIFT MOTEL to H20 Suites
The Floridian Motel was the original name of the 1950s motel located at 1212 Simonton Street. Later it became the Spindrift Motel. The building across the street has been a restaurant for as long as I remember. I think it was called Poor Richard's. (Now it is called Abbondanza.) I remember going to Poor Richard's twice in the mid 1980s on one my earlier trips to Key West. One night the food was incredible. We went back a few days later except that time the service was so slow I thought the waiter was helping prepare the food. The service and the food was just awful. I told the Realtor I was looking at properties with about my experience. She said the sous chef had just won the Florida lottery quit and left town.
There are a few other commercial projects which I have been photographing. I will post them soon. In the meantime, please continue to follow my blog as I write about the real estate listings and offer a few unsolicited comments about the life and times of Key West as well as yours truly.