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Monday, June 26, 2017

403 - 405 Caroline Street, Key West

Yesterday, instead of hosting an open house to showcase one of my listings, I decided to go to see other open houses.  I want to share with you the incredible property located at 403 - 405 Caroline Street in Key West. I knew I had been inside about 25 years ago or so when my first real estate broker listed this property. I saw it then but had no present recollection of what it used to look like.  As soon as I entered the owner's unit I knew i had to share this place with my loyal readers. The current owners bought this place in 1999 and did an incredible job in re-creating a wonderful living space unlike anything else in Key West.
The listing broker describes the property this way:
"One-of-a-kind historic property dating back to the late 1800's. Two buildings consisting of three legal units with high ceilings, colossal multi-paned windows, mahogony railings and shutters, cuban tile and wood floors, and large tropical courtyard with ample room for a pool. HRO zoning permits many uses including, but not limited to residential dwellings, professional offices, medical services, and places of worship. Property is configured with a two bedroom and two bathroom main house, a one bed and one bath apartment, and a large studio, perfect for an artist, extended family, or guests. Both structures are connected by over 1500 sq. ft. of decks and porches. There is also a coveted off-street parking space with a unique entry point."
 I looked inside my old shoebox for some photos of the property as it used to look and also found photos of the area which is pretty special in its own right. You see, the houses sit opposite the Presidential Gates on the opposite side of Whitehead Street. President Harry S. Truman used to pass these gates on an almost daily basis when he vacationed at the Little White House a block or so further west.  As I stood on the second floor balcony that wraps three sides of this property, I snapped a photo of the old gates that connect our historic past to the present day.
I cropped the black and white photo two above. If you are familiar with the location, you probably recognize the proximity to Mallory Square, the boat basis across the street, and nearby Duval Street. But back in the day, before the tourists took over, this location was an easy five minute walk to the very active seaport where fishermen, spongers, merchants, and the US NAVY lived and worked.

circa 1980
I searched the Historic Sanborn Fire maps seeking more information on the age of the buildings. I found a different history than I had pee-conceived.  The 1889 Map showed a much larger L-shaped building that extended east on Caroline Street. The map says the building was a photo gallery back then and remained such until the 1899 map. There was a bookstore (of all things) located directly across Caroline Street.  The Odd Fellows Hall was located about fifty feet or so to the east. I found a photo of that once magnificent building that workers from the WPA took down in the 1930s. Thank God they did not dismantle the entire town in the name of progress.  The maps showed numerous changes in use of neighboring properties over the years. The 1912 Map shows 403 - 405 Caroline Street which means these two buildings were built sometime between 1899 and 1912.
The Monroe County Property Appraiser shows the two buildings as having finished interior living spaces totaling 2,688 sq ft plus an additional 2909 sq ft of decking much of which is covered in some fashion. The lot measures 66' X 70.16' or 4620 sq ft. The buildings are in superior condition in my opinion. The current owners renovated the properties after their purchase and did a masterful job in re-imagining the usage. It has to be seen in person to appreciate the creativity they brought to the project. There is nothing like it in Key West. 
The property as currently configured is three units which could be legally be re-purposed in any means as outlined above by the listing broker. Today there are two apartments in the west building - a one bedroom on the ground floor and a "studio" on the second floor. 
The first and second floor units are the same size but configured differently. Both have front and rear porches and use of the rear garden area.  The second floor studio is unlike any I have ever seen in Key West. I am pretty certain the original ceiling was flat wood construction typical throughout the area. I think the current owners removed that ceiling as well as interior walls and created the new curved ceiling, added the expansive glass windows at the rear and created this wonderful open living space. CLICK HERE to view more photos of this wonderful property.
The east building is configured a bit different from most houses in Key West as the main living area is located on the upper level and the bedrooms are on the first floor. The owners removed interior walls and the original flat ceiling and opened the living and dining areas into one open space. The efficient kitchen is attached. There is window which looks out at the trees and historic old building across the street. What at first appears to be a wood closed located on the east side of the living room is actually the stairway to the main floor. When I entered the space I was awed by the rich wood and old copper fittings.  How cool is this, I thought. The guest bedroom is located at the front of the property. The door was open. It was about 1:00 PM. Trolley cars were passing by every five to ten minutes. I listened for clamor. I really didn't hear anything that was annoying to me and I get annoyed by tourists very easily. The master bedroom is located at the rear. It is huge. A door opens out to the rear deck and garden. What a lovely place that would be for morning or a late night drink before bed.
There are two covered off street parking spaces located between the two old houses. This place is totally civilized. And I think there is room for a pool.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and to veiw 47 listing photos of this wonderful property. The please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

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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.