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Key West Armory

CIRCA 1902

Historic Marker 10 is located at 600 White Street on the corner of White and Southard Streets. The Armory is is symbolic of a significant preservation battle waged in the 1960's. This is a story of "A BLESSING IN DISGUISE."During the 1950's and 1960's, many historic structures in Key West were demolished, disfigured or swallowed by development. It was an era of "in with the new and out with the old." A new style of modern architecture was all the rage and many cities and towns lost a majority of their historic buildings during that period.Key West was, in a way, blessed by a long and painful recovery from the Great Depression, the city's bankruptcy in 1933 and the exodus of the army after World War II. There was little new construction during the period and, by the 1970's, the heart of the Old Town business district had become a collection of empty buildings. The loss of some structures to fire and neglect along with a growing awareness that tourism was one of our only industries, spurred a growing recognition of the importance of preserving our historic structures.By 1959 the City Commission created the Old Island Restoration Commission that was empowered to conduct architectural review in Old Town.In 1968, an extremely large and significant architectural building was demolished with little advance notice. This grand building, built in 1857, was the Convent of Mary Immaculate. The citizens of Key West were outraged by this loss. This led to a rekindling of the preservation movement.In 1969 another monumental Key West building, the Armory, which had fallen into an advanced state of disrepair, was scheduled for demolition. John Allen learned of these plans and, with the help of Florida State Representative William Roberts, was able get a Legislative Act passed to create a Preservation Commission for Key West and secure funding to restore the building. Over time the protection boundaries expanded and, in 1986, the Preservation Commission became known as the Historic Architectural Review Commission or HARC. These efforts, along with the support of the community have left us with a legacy of one of the largest historic districts of frame vernacular buildings in the country.For additional information about the history of the Armory dial 510 at (305) 507-0300.