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A conch-style house in the Old Town neighborhood of Key West, Florida - Photo by Andrew Harper

Key West’s Charming Conch Houses

By Andrew Harper

The Hideaway Report | August 22, 2017

One of the pleasures of Key West is strolling along the streets of Old Town looking at the lovely residential cottages and homes. Many of these date to the 19th century and are done in a style known as “conch” architecture. Native Key West folk call themselves “conchs.” The name is derived from people in the Bahamas, who, resisting British food taxes in the 1700s, declared they’d rather eat the meat from the ubiquitous conchs — the familiar spiral-shelled gastropod with a lustrous pink interior — which they duly did. Numerous Bahamians settled in Key West in the 1800s, and the name traveled with them. Many were boatbuilders, and they constructed sturdy houses from the dense Dade County pine.

The Seaport Inn in Key West, Florida - Photo by Andrew Harper
A conch-style house in the Old Town neighborhood of Key West, Florida - Photo by Andrew Harper
A conch-style home in Key West, Florida - Photo by Andrew Harper

Comprising an amalgam of styles from New England, the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast, their homes shared several common characteristics: They were built on posts to allow air to circulate; sloping roofs allowed for better rain runoff and collection; louvered shutters admitted indirect light to reduce the heat; dormers provided added space on top floors; and porches and verandas cut down on direct sun. Many of these clapboard homes have been restored and renovated in recent years. They are now painted in bright colors inspired by the natural environment and sport decorative embellishments such as gingerbread trim.

 Sneak Peek

This article appeared in The Hideaway Report, a monthly newsletters exclusively for members.

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Andrew Harper Photo Andrew Harper is the editor of The Hideaway Report, a luxury travel newsletter that first appeared in 1979. He travels anonymously and pays his own expenses in pursuit of unique properties that offer unusually high levels of personal service. Hotels have no idea who he is, so he is treated exactly as you might be.

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