Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Custom House: Key West Landmark

Custom House Today
      Custom House is one of the most prominent buildings as you arrive in Key West harbor by boat.     This incredible red building jumps out at you as you arrive in the area of it from anywhere.     Built in 1891, Custom House is Florida's best example of Romanesque Revival Architecture and is thought to be one of the top 5 most significant buildings in the state.     This building was built by the U.S. Treasury Department to house the Federal Courts, U.S. Customs, Lighthouse Service, and the Post Office.     Thomas Edison was said to have worked here during the era when Key West was Florida's most populous and important seaport.     The Custom House has been the cite of many notable historic events, the most important of which was the inquiry into the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor.   

Custom House during the operational days
     This history of Custom House somewhat follows the history of the economics of Key West.     Built in the era when Key West was the richest per capita city in the United states and declared surplus in the 1930's when the city of Key West was in bankruptcy.     The building after being used by the U.S. Navy as the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico operations headquarters was abandon for nearly twenty years.      In 1993 the State of Florida purchased the building for use as a museum of art and history.

The abandoned Boarded up building
      Today the Building has been restored to it's previous splendor.     The restoration took 9 years at a cost of more than 9 million dollars, but the big red brick building has been brought back to her formal glory.       The building today is administered by the Key West Art and Historical Society, and is being used to house the Key West Museum of Art and History.     Following the path taken by Key West this grand old building has seen the likes of wreckers, pirates, politicians and now artists and the history of Key West to become one of Florida's most important historical buildings.    This is another of the don't miss stops when in Key West.     ;o)