Monday, March 15, 2021

Old Houses

I took my last surviving powered two wheeler for a spin after I sold my Vespa last week. The little electric Jetson Bolt is my circus-bear-on-a-unicycle look and it hauls me around at 9mph so I can get back to the office without being a  smelly sweating pedaling mess. It also fits easily on the back seat of the Fiat 500 which has become it's garage. I drive to work with the electric scooter always there and ready to run an errand. This old house is at Bill Butler Park:

I was meandering aimlessly enjoying the sun when it occurred to me I wanted to photograph old decrepit buildings. I recently posted a photo on Instagram of the new hole at Olivia and Emma where the old white house with the pink shutters used to be, in Bahama Village, across from the Douglass gym.  
I took the photo below in 2013 out walking the late Cheyenne and you can imagine that eight years later it was probably time for a change for the crumbling house. But I got to thinking...there are so many old houses in key West and soon they must all disappear. 

So, I thought to myself as I rode around photographically uninspired but enjoying the fresh air, why don't I round up a few pictures of places that might soon be gone, pieces of key West history, the city as it was? This next one I found on Johnson Lane, last photographed in 2008 LINK:

I grant you it is quite the cliché photographing old distressed buildings, and I adhered to that cliché by making the pictures in black and white. I think the fascination with the old buildings comes not just from how picturesque they look, but also because that look evokes feelings. Sometimes one is glad to see some undesirable thing collapsing and finally rotting away to be replaced by the fresh new version. For me in Key West these old homes are the vivid expression of memory, they are the manifestation of life lived. 

I grew up with shutters like these in the photo below, and I remember my mother throwing them open and yelling at me to come upstairs for lunch or for an unwanted siesta or some other intrusion into my summer vacation. So when I rode by on Olivia Street and saw this window I was compelled to stop. 

Obviously anyone who walks Old Town can allow themselves to fall in love with wooden homes and masses of greenery and narrow lanes and so forth. But these old things are on their way to extinction and when they are replaced externally they will have to adhere to historic code criteria while inside they will be modern and comfortable and livable as they should be.  For now they are monuments to the past awaiting inevitable transformation into modern practical expensive dwellings for winter visitors. 

This one on Olivia at Frances is lived in.

And if you were under any illusion that living cheek by jowl with your neighbors was easy there is a message here for you.

As unsightly as it is I guess it beats calling 911! (For the humor impaired I'm making a funny as I answer 911 in Key West and these are exactly the nuisance calls I deal with all day: trash parking and noise complaints). For some neighbors life in close quarters is very difficult and communication frequently breaks down.  

The other reason I like black and white is because I can paint a more modern lived-in home into an essay on old houses. Such is the architecture of Old Town. This conch cottage has survived the passage of time as a lived in home. It is a survivor.  

And so we come to end of my lunch break, a dead end as it were. Like this dry wall in The Meadows.