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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Secret Love ~ Love Lane, Key West

A visitor to Key West snapped the above photo of 712 Love Lane during an open house and posted it on her Instagram page along with this comment: "Touring a secluded gem on Love Lane that has provided inspiration to many distinguished authors..." with a series of hash tags.  It's wonderful how people who see homes like this just fall in love with Key West.  

Poets and writers have written on the subject of love for centuries. I'm sure that we have all experienced the euphoria of falling in love and some have endured the pain of falling out as well.  Life and Love and complicated. In celebration of Valentine's Day I thought it appropriate to write about one of my favorite lanes in Old Town - Love Lane
 Finding Love Lane can be confusing. There are three separate "Love Lanes" each located near the other but far enough apart to totally confuse just above anyone. If you walk on the north side of Southard Street you will find a Love Lane sign midway between William and Elizabeth Streets. If you walk down the lane you will find that the lane abruptly ends where a house sits and the lane ends. Bur if you are walk on the south side of Fleming Street between Elizabeth and William Streets you will find an unmarked walking lane that begins at the edge of the Monroe County Public Library (which has been referred to as the Pink Library). This, too, is Love Lane. And if you went back to Southard Street and walked on the south side of the street you would find a tiny little walking lane, a lane also called Love Lane. In his book The Streets of Key West author J. Willis Burke explains the confusion about Love Lane:
"Love can generate some confusion - and Love Lane is no exception. Some maps show to Loves, one coming off Fleming and another off Southard, but not meeting mid-block. Other maps indicate Gwynn Street, named for a former mayor and cigar tycoon E. O. Gwynn, is the lane that runs off Southard. And yet another source cites Johnny Cake Lane as making up the northern half of Love Lane. At one time perhaps it did... As confirmed by the loving couple who lives on the Fleming Street side of the lane, both are now called Love Lane. It seems they don't meet because the bungalow that bisects the lane was built on the sly, and over the decades, has been grandfathered and let stand."

I grabbed my camera and took photos of each of the current existing houses on Love Lane. I rummaged through my old shoebox and found photos of Love Lane taken a little over fifty years ago Let's see how much remains the same and how much things have changed. One of the anchor houses for the longest segment of Love Lane is actually numbered 713 Southard Street.  It's a big old unpainted Bahamian House with a large rear yard that abuts Love Lane.  I know there will be hordes of buyers in line to buy this house when the day comes it goes on the market. Until then it will just stand there looking foreboding has it has for decades.

721 Southard Street is the other anchor house. It has been restored and stands proud and tall among the smaller cottage style houses nearby. 

Notice the scuttles on the historic metal roof. Scuttles were used to ventilate these homes. Notice also the lack of trees around most of the homes in this block. This was typical of most of Key West until the gentrification of Old Town starting in the 1970s. 
The photo of 717 Love Lane is all that remains of that old house. Today the space is a vacant appendage to 727 Love Lane which has an enormous side yard. Surprisingly, that huge lot has never had a pool added.
728 Love Lane  Key West
The north of Southard Street segment of Love Lane abruptly ends at 721 and 722 Love Lane. On the 1889 Sanborn Fire Map the lane veered right (east) for about 40 feet or so and then turned north again where part of the lane was maybe five feet wide at most. Remember this was at a time when nobody had cars and few people had horses. It wasn't until after the end of World War II that many locals even had cars and parking in Old Town was not that big of a a deal. Most of the houses on this segment are both larger in size and also located on larger lots than either of the other two Lone Lane blocks. 

716 Southard Street but this is the south of Southard segment of Love Lane. There is a smaller cottage in the rear.
712 Love Lane 2017

712 Love Lane  Key West
There are two more cottages located behind a fence at the south terminus of this segment of Love Lane.  Although 712 Love Lane now has gated parking, I would bet its pretty cumbersome to get into and out. Love Lane is much more narrow here than the section located off Southard Street.
I think most of the residents in this section of Love Lane probably don't mind walking to their cars. Their lives are removed from much of the hustle and bustle going on out on Fleming Street. The Monroe County Library acts as a nice little buffer.  When they walk down the lane the rest of their world is an oyster. All roads lead to someplace far away and exotic.  I personally think living on a lane called Love would be pretty satisfying. There are no current home listings on Love Lane. But there will be - sometime. Maybe this is a location you could fall in love with as well. 

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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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.