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Conch House Architecture for florida keys

All About Conch Houses

Conch Houses of the Florida Keys
Hawk's Cay's Conch Houses
Classic Key West Houses

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Conch Houses of Key West and the Florida Keys

What is a conch house? Early settlers of the Bahamas and Florida Keys built their homes of a morter made from sand, water, and lime. The settlers obtained their lime by burning conch shells. Having no building stones or bricks, but an abundance of conch shells the settlers often utilized the shell itself in constructing their houses. Thus the term "conch" house had its beginning. Later, wooden homes built by settlers and ship's carpenters utilizing a blend of architectural styles took on the name of conch houses.

Writer Slyvia Sunshine in her book Petals Plucked from Sunny Climes in describing them said in 1880,

"The architectural style of these buildings is adapted only to the necessities of a tropical clime - a shelter from the heat and rain. They have no chimneys, consequently no bright, cheerful firesides, with their fanciful shapes described in the curling smoke, leaping flames, or expiring coals, about which poets love to write and dream."

The classic Conch Houses of Key West and the Florida Keys exhibit multicultural roots inherited from the Bahamas, New England, and Africa. Hand-crafted of wood and constructed by seafaring carpenters, conch house architecture utilizes Gulf Coast building forms, the well proportioned architecture of the New England seacoast, and tropical adaptations of housing from the Caribbean.

A close look at a classic Conch House reveals an energy-efficient, and sensible design for living in the tropics:

  • Houses rest on piers for air circulation, which cools the house and prevents rotting .
  • Sloping metal roofs reflect the heat of the tropical sun and carry clean water by means of gutters to a storage cistern.
  • Dormers expand attic space into bedrooms. Roof hatches, a concept borrowed from ships also aid ventilation.
  • Exterior walls have no fire stops, horizontal blocks between studs in the wall. This allows air to circulate from the crawl space to the attic. Heat in the walls and attic dissipates by convection.
  • Louvered shutters block out the tropical afternoon heat while allowing circulation of sea breezes. Shutters also provide hurricane protection.
  • Porches and encircling verandahs provide shade and cut down the heat .Each room uses tongue and groove wood in the construction of flooring, walls, and ceiling. Each room has the rigidity of a sturdy structural cube to resist hurricanes.

Any number of restored conch houses can be viewed today in a tour of Key West. An easy way to learn more about conch architecture and Key West in general is to take the popular Conch Train Tour which begins close by Mallory Square on Front Street.

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Classic Conch Houses of Key West

Are you interested in exercise and the conch house architecture of Key West?

Several free guides readily available in Key West describe self-guided walking tours of the city's eclectic architectural heritage . A " Pelican Path" brochure shows the path to follow and provides interesting documentation about the old houses that are identified with numbered pelican plaques along the way. The brochure may be obtained at the Chamber of Commerce or the Hospitality House at Mallory Square. A favorite of many and readily available is Sharon Well's Walking and Biking Tour To Historical Key West. This guide also documents each building's history and provides maps for each section on the tour.

Under time constraints, you might limit your exploration to just Eaton Street. Look for signs of the classic conch house: galvanized steel roofs, ventilating roof hatches, Bahamian top-hung shutters, wrap around verandahs,and houses built on piers - all devices to combat the heat and sun of the tropics. Bring along the guides, absorb the beauty of Key West as you read about the history of these unique old homes.

Buildings to see along Eaton Street are:

Numbers 401,403, 405, 511, 517, and 524

534 Eaton - Artist House
613 Eaton - Donkey Milk House, tropical Greek Revival architecture ,open to the public

620 Eaton - Ice Palace

 
712 Eaton - Richard Peacon House with octagon shaped verandahs and towers purchased by Calvin Klein in the 1980s

718 Eaton - Bartlum/Fogarty House

724 Eaton - Samual Filer House

 

730 Eaton Street and 408 Williams. Houses built in the Bahamas and shipped to the Keys. They stand are side by side at the corner of Eaton and Williams.

 
To stay in a Conch style house in Key West you must contact a Key West Rental agent. The City of Key West does not allow short term rentals in residential areas. A rental agent will know what rentals are legally is available.
 

The Houses of Key West 

 
A good book to buy about the houses of key West.
 
 
Key West Houses
 
Amazon Reader Reviewer: keywestconch from North Central Florida. I love this book. If you enjoy the unique look of Key West Conch architecture you will enjoy this book. Color full page and full page plus photographs fill the book. Most pictures are full close-ups of the front of the house. It is a nice reminder of time spent in Key West. If you are interested in architecture it contains examples of the various unique Key West styles used. I enjoyed looking at picture of the famous houses and reading about why they are famous. Almost forgot it, contains the addresses of the houses in case you want to see them for yourself.
 
 
 

Go to Key West Houses for information on this book by Leslie Linsley

 
cover for Key West Houses
 
No Review provided
 
 

cover To order The Key West DVD

The Key West DVD - a new generation travel guide. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the Key West DVD is worth at least a million or two. The Key West DVD features of entertaining and informative footage centering on the "American Caribbean" island of Key West, it is a high-quality, well written & professionally produced film capturing the essence and experience of this small, out-of-the-way destination town. Be like the locals and get a heads-up on where to eat, shop, sightsee and more!

 
Get ready for an upcoming visit (or re-live an old vacation) by bringing the sights and sounds of Key West into your home! And if a Key West vacation is out of your budget right now, you can "be there on DVD" for very little!

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Hawk's Cay's Caribbean-style Conch House Accommodations

At Hawks Cay on Duck Key in the Florida Keys it is possible to rent vacation homes resembling early Key West housing with Caribbean-style architecture. Hawk's Cay is located on a part of Duck Key which has commercial zoning.

Folks in the Keys call such Caribbean-style domiciles conch houses. Although they appear to be classic conch houses, rest assured they are constructed with modern standards, advances in energy efficiency , and the conveniences that today's vacation traveler has come to expect. Ceiling fans not only create that tropical mood but increase your comfort as well. Air conditioning is also available if you want serious cooling.

In appearance the Conch vacation houses at Hawk's Cay Village exhibit the best features of the Classic Conch House of the Keys . Though they resemble classic conch houses in appearance, the latest standards for construction in these Florida Keys villas as well as modern advances in energy have been utilized in their construction.

 

Pictured below is an aerial photo of the island of Duck Key with Hawk's Cay in the foreground.

For internet information on lodging at Hawk's Cay click here.

 

 

 

 


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