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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Key West - One Year After Hurricane Irma

Key West has been my home since December 1993. I have stayed in Key West for each of the hurricanes since Hurricane Georges in 1998 which recurred while I was in Ft Lauderdale attending a real estate refresher course. I remember the drive back to Key West on US 1 - a trip that normally take four hours took ten. I decided never do that again.

In late August 2018 CNN and other media started to warn the public about Hurricane Irma as it formed in the Atlantic.  The enormous storm moved at a terribly slow pace as it headed towards Cuba and Florida. The storm was so wide that hurricane models were unable to predict the exact path it would take. As I recall CNN predicted a tidal surge of up to ten feet and warned of catastrophic disaster for Key West. Many locals who always stayed here decided to leave for Irma. I estimate that about 25 to 30 per cent of locals stayed in Key West - including me.
I drove around the island a couple times during the days preceding Irma's landfall. There was barely any traffic. Stores on Duval Street were boarded up. The hotels and guest houses were shut. Houses were shuttered. The high school parking lot was filled with cars in anticipation of flooding in low lying areas. The skies alternated between awesome blue with enormous cumulus clouds to gray and threatening as Irma headed our way. I hunkered down with a friend in Old Town. We lost power around 8:00 PM. I went to bed and woke up the next morning to mild but constant rain and wind which lasted for an eternity. I ventured outside a couple of times to test the conditions but decided to stay indoors because tree limbs were falling everywhere. Around 3:00 PM we went for a walk around Old Town and later drove to the Bayview Park and Casa Marina areas where I took photos of the damage. I thought it would be interesting for readers to compare the locations one year later.
One of the first sights I saw was a huge mahogany tree that fell across the 300 block of Simonton Street. That tree was one of many canopy trees we lost in the storm. In my opinion it was the loss of the trees was the biggest loss during this event.
The boarded up houses at 421 Simonton Street were being renovated when the hurricane occurred. They were not damaged. The renovation has just been completed.
The Curry Mansion lost a huge tree at its front entry. The building did not appear to have sustained any visible damage.
Another huge tree located at the corner of Caroline at Simonton Street had fallen. The former Banana's Foster property on the corner was not damaged.
I walked to the corner of Eaton and Elizabeth Streets where a new property at 700 Eaton was being built and the historic house at 704 Eaton was being renovated. Neither was damaged. The renovation was recently completed and the house at 704 Eaton was listed for sale. It went under contract in just seven days on the market.
A massive tree located on the side of the Eaton Street Fish Market fell across William Street. The uprooted tree hoisted a propane tank up about ten feet off the ground. I turned around and looked south on William Street where a huge mahogany blocked the 500 block. I walked east to Margaret Street.
When I neared got near the corner of Margaret and Southard Street I saw a banyan tree leaning against the Harris School. As I got closer I saw several more trees had fallen on the school grounds. The building was not damaged. I walked west on Southard Street to checkout two nearby houses I had sold. Both houses were fine, but the owner of one beautiful home lost his prized Date Palm.
The biggest shock of the afternoon occurred when I reached the corner of Southard and William Streets. I had always considered the 600 block of William Street to be one of the prettiest streets in Old Town. Irma changed that. Two giant banyan trees fell onto the late Shel Silverstein's house which was badly damaged. The house was razed several months later. This is the only house I am aware of that we lost. There was minor damage to three abutting properties. 
I walked south on William Street to the corner of Windsor Lane where I looked to my right and saw two huge trees had fallen at the Key West Writer's Compound.  The trees were located on either side of the former home of author John Hersey. The trees took down the fence and crushed a motorcycle parked on Windsor Lane. I sold this historic home several years ago. I walked around the property and determined it was not damaged. The fence was rebuilt. The owners now have sunny views.
The 1100 block of Fleming Street (between Frances and White Streets) was closed for more than a week because two enormous banyan trees in front of 1117 Fleming Street fell onto the street. One big limb damaged the porch of the adjacent house which is now being repaired.
Later I drove over to the 1400 block of Virginia Street to checkout a house across from Bayview Park. I had this house a couple of years ago and wanted to make sure it was okay. Two big trees snapped in half. The house did not have any visible sign of damage.  The city did not take the trees down.

I then went to the Casa Marina area where I saw another giant banyan tree located at 1100 Flagler Avenue had fallen. This is the former home of author Judy Blume. The current owners are now extending a brick fence to add more privacy to this home.
The house under construction in the 1000 block of Washington was not damaged and was recently completed and is now being lived in.
"X" marks the spot at the corner of Washington and Whalton Streets where one of the tallest and most majestic trees in Key West fell. It took the city more than three weeks to remove the tree. The tree was located on the public right of way. The city requires property owners to pay significant fees to obtain permission to remove trees during construction. These funds are supposed to be used pay for replacement trees. The city has not replaced anything at this location. Double loss!

CLICK HERE to view photos I took before and after Hurricane Irma.

Key West is back to as normal as Key West can be. We have a lot less trees than before, but we have as many houses less one. This is a great place to live. Come down and checkout Key West.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

605 Margaret Street, Key West

Buyers seeking an Old Town location should consider 605 Margaret Street, Key West  which the listing Realtor, not me, describes this way:
"This perfect Old Town Cottage is newly renovated as a single family 2 bedroom 2 bathroom home with a large bonus loft. The property can also be legally converted into two units per the City of Key West however the property is currently using one meter. This great location is only blocks away from Duval St and would make an excellent investment property."
 I searched through my old shoebox and found the above black and white photo taken in 1965. The top color photo shows multiple embellishments that have been added since, but the original house remains intact. The Monroe County Property Appraiser records show the house has 918 square feet of living space. The photo shows what looks to be a typical cigar maker cottage with a two story read addition. In recent years this house has been used as employee housing for the neighboring restaurant on Southard Street. 
 The front portion of the main level is a nice one bedroom with about 514 sq ft of living space. This room has a combination of Dade County Pine walls that have been painted white with one accent wall where the Dade Pine has been stripped and sealed. The front porch opens to a view of the old Harris School across the street. I found a photo taken inside the school around 1955 which I think shows 605 Margaret Street on the left. The children were first grade students.

A door at the rear opens into the two story mother-in-law one bedroom with kitchen and bath. The 300 sq ft of living space is divided equally between the floors. The bedroom has several windows which offer sunny views which you cannot see in the above photo. There is fairly good sized wood deck at the rear with a canvas awning - not pictured. That space is about 23 feet wide by 10 feet deep. The property records show there used to be a hot tub located there. If I owned this home, I would remover the awning, replace the hot tub, and have sweet little cottage in an ideal Old Town location.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and view more listing photos. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. This is worth looking at!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

621 Olivia Street,Key West - Elegant Eyebrow Home

Just Listed, but not by me, 621 Olivia Street, Key West. I got to preview this elegant eyebrow house during a broker open house a couple of weeks ago. If you watch Million Dollar Listing New York you are accustomed to seeing sharp dressing brokers who look more like models. While we have a few pretty sharp looking agents, most of our agents have gray hair and dress Key West casual. That was the case on the date we saw this house. We were all awed by the place.
I dug around in my old shoebox and found the above picture of 621 Olivia Street taken back in 1965. A note on the back says it was built circa 1889. The photo contrasts with the current photo above in many ways but it also shows us the basic structure remains intact. The front part is the actual eyebrow house. Note the roof line extends out over the front and rests on four columns. Three sets of windows are located on a higher plane over the first floor door and louver shutters. The second floor windows were designed to allow fresh air to flow into the house even during a rainstorm. A second part of the house can be seen at the rear. The connecting point the two sections is referred to as a sawtooth addition.
Even though there are more than fifty eyebrow homes in Key West, each one is different. Most of the eyebrows, like this one, have been renovated. This home has been thoroughly renovated, expanded, and now includes a separate guest cottage. Today the main house and guest cottage have 1794 square feet of living space under air conditioning plus additional covered porch and lounge areas. The home has four bedrooms and three baths. The front door opens into a central hallway which leads to the new great room at the rear. The first impression is this a very old and lovely home. The Dade County Pine walls suggest this is a very old house, but when we pass to the rear we see large contemporary great room with vaulted ceiling and lots of windows and doors with views of the incredible pool and rear grounds. 
The first floor wood floors are pickled which works well with the contemporary feel of this updated home. The main floor bedrooms have the historic character so many buyers desire. The second floor master suite is contemporary and includes a large en-suite bath. I saw this home around 5:00 PM just as our late summer sun started that long dance into twilight. Windows at the gable ends of the great room offer so many light possibilities throughout the day.  A skylight in the master bedroom brings additional light into that space apart from the eyebrow windows at floor level and the side windows in the bedroom and bath. The natural light in this home is especially keen.
When the first floor French doors are opened the lanai becomes a part of the indoor-outdoor living area. Imagine entertaining in this incredible environment.  The pool area includes a waterfall feature at the rear and a spa at the front.  I took a video of the pool which you may enjoy.
The stand alone guest cottage has a small kitchen and private bath. It has a vaulted ceiling and  multiple sets of French doors that make this space seem much larger than it is. This space would make a great writer's cottage. Are you a great writer?
The attention to detail evidenced in the main house continues into the guest cottage. Everything is perfect. The backyard and pool area are among the best I've seen in Key West. The other agents' eyes were agog when they looked at the pool. This is impressive!
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and more photos of 621 Olivia Street, Key West, offered at $2,475,000. 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.


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.