Friday, September 4, 2015

616 Eaton Street

I took this picture a while back of a nice old tumbledown house on a large patch of land half a block off Simonton Street. I actually have a  number of images of this picturesque heap in my archives, one notably from several years ago announcing the building for sale for the low, low price of four million dollars. A price that was not entirely realistic apparently, even in this crazy town, as a new owner has surfaced and remarked in the paper that they paid a mere $1,850,000 - did I mention this town has some crazy real estate prices?
The reason the new owners are in the paper is not because they paid a preposterous sum of money for an uninhabitable wreck- that happens all the time in Key West- rather because they have plans to get the full measure of their money's worth for this place. Their plans for the new structure to occupy the lot as so expansive as to be ludicrous in the real world, but the theme of this essay is becoming, accidentally I might add, the mad mad mad world of housing in Key West. Check out this side view of what is purportedly the future of this lot. 
Neighbors in this corner of architecturally sensitive Old Town Key West are somewhat taken aback by a plan that calls for a home that appears to be styled in the manner of a guest house or exclusive hotel, as some of the less charitably minded neighbors suspect is the ultimate goal of this monument to bad taste. the old 5,000 square foot wreck is supposed to be the frontispiece for a 6,000 square foot addition in the rear - no really- that will include a walkway between the two homes, with two swimming pools and 1200 square feet of covered porches. The mind boggles. But what makes it even more boggling is the fact that the Historic Architecture Review Commission, the guardians of preserving Old Town's character, bent right over and gave this thing their seal of approval. Which has really annoyed some people who can't get storm windows or white roofs approved for their Old Town homes. They do sort of have a point, don't you think?
The proud new owners didn't help their case along with a rather tart comment in the paper to the effect that they didn't pay that much money for all that land to grow vegetables. Which may very well be true but a large house, a nice swimming pool and some superb tropical shrubbery could have done the job were one less ambitious, with perhaps a modest guest house and garden shed to round out the compound. The thing is I rather imagine the city will yield - it usually does- and make some mumbling noises and get a couple of minor concessions and one more nail will be planted in the coffin of Key West's urban character. Might as well build it and hang a CVS sign on the front I suppose.
It's not impossible to buy an old structure and redo it with dignity, and no doubt a lot of money. Check Bonnie Albury's old place on Southard Street. The former school teacher died and her beloved home was  put up for sale, not surprisingly really as it is a giant structure on Southard Street:
 This place was restored to look like this:
Is that an impossible example to follow?

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And this week's podcast on Travel and Safety we feature a rather fun interview with a young enthusiastic Australian comedian. Take none of it too seriously but enjoy his take on the crazy world he has come to enjoy in America, for the first time. A very confusing place it turns out!