Sunday, November 22, 2009

1400 duval street

Set down on the south end of Duval is a beautifully renovated Queen Anne style mansion known as the Southernmost House.

It was built in 1896 for Dr. Jeptha Vinning Harris, a former Civil War sawbones who married Florida Curry Harris (a daughter of the famous and filthy rich Curry family) and it remained their family home for the next 40 years and some.

The Harris’s took great pride in their magnificent oceanfront home and were quick to invite many guests, family and friends. But as much as they enjoyed hosting guests, they enjoyed their privacy more. So, as expansive as it was, the original home was built with only one bedroom and visitors were put up in an adjacent guesthouse.

In 1939, the Ramos family came from Spain, bought the Southernmost House and, through most of the 1940's opened it up as the wildly popular "Café Cayo Hueso", a Cuban Café where locals and visitors came in for cocktails, Cuban cigars and a bit of gambling on the second floor.

But by 1950 Mrs. Ramos had had enough of the smell and mess of smoke filled rooms and rhum soaked wooden floors. So they closed the café, did a massive renovation and, in 1954, moved into their beautifully refurbished family home.

The Southernmost House had a magnetic appeal all it's own and it wasn't long before the word got out and company came calling.
Writers, Artists and Celebrities, a laundry list of American Presidents from Truman and Kennedy to Nixon and Carter and their cousin, the future king of Spain, Juan Carlos.

It turned out young Juan visited Key West a lot (the night life, you know) but his family and security detail feared for his safety driving the 150 miles down the two lane US1 from Miami and tried to discourage his visits. To solve the problem, the Ramos' built a helicopter pad on the south side of the property so the Prince could fly down, no worries.

These days, helicopters don't land there any more but the pad still lives as a great spot to cop a sunburn by the sea. The Southernmost House itself is a 13 room Innkeepers dream and historical museum with a pool side bar and, last I heard, for five bucks Locals can still go over and hang in the pool.

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