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  • Writer's pictureMel Dick

Cigars, Scavengers, Dragons and Cycles!

Hung out most of the day walking around the island waiting to get into the home I will be staying at for the next 2+ months. Got in late this afternoon and I can't tell you how nice it is to not be in a tent, hostel or motel room for the first time in over 2 months. More sights of Key West.... the E.H. Gato Cigar Factory, the Gato family home, an advertisement for a bike boat outing (think beer bike), Tarpon and sharks waiting for fish to be cleaned at a local marina fish cleaning station and as my grandkids would say a "dragon" with a very long tail outside my room last night.

Key West has a proud Cuban heritage from Cuban families who fled Cuba before it earned its independence from Spain. Perhaps one of the most famous Cuban families in Key West was the Gato family. Eduardo Hidalgo Gato, who immigrated from Cuba in 1874, made his fortune in the cigar industry. Gato was a Cuban patriot who helped finance Cuba's revolutionary leaders including Cuban National hero José Martí, who fought for freedom from Spain. He was instrumental in Key West's evolution from a small fishing town to one of Florida's wealthiest cities through his development of the Cuban tobacco industry. He built the island’s foremost cigar factory pictured above in 1917, where millions of cigars, using tobacco, imported from Cuba, were hand rolled and boxed for shipment worldwide by over 500 employees. He also constructed a nearby city cottages for his workers which became known as Gatoville. Today, the cigar factory houses various Key West municipal functions.

The house pictured above, with its elaborate Queen Anne style detailing, was built

in 1894 by Gato at the Southern end of Key West's famous Duval Street. Soon after the house was built, Gato realized the rambling Victorian home was not getting the right sun exposure on his favorite porches, so he moved the house across the street. He had the huge structure rolled on logs pulled by mules. He also rotated the house to create the most favorable mix of sun and shade. Today it houses an ocean view B&B, The Southernmost Point Guest House.

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