© Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
In October of 1846, a massive hurricane destroyed most of the homes on the island of Key West, Florida. In the wake of the storm, Captain John Geiger, master wrecker, decided to build a grand home that would reflect the wealth and status of his family. He the corner of Whitehead and Greene Street to construct his home because anyone coming or going from the waterfront would be able to see the home there.
The home was built in the American Classic Revival style of architecture using Dade County Pine, a hardwood which was impervious to termites and is now extinct. Other expensive hardwoods such as mahogany and cypress were also used in the home.
Four generations of Geiger’s lived in the home for over 100 years with the most recent being Captain Willian Bradford Smith. Unfortunately, William was a recluse who lived alone and never installed electricity, running water or a functional indoor kitchen in the home. When he died in 1956 the home was in very bad shape and the home was not livable and slated for demolition.
Luckily, the Wolfson family, who had close ties to Key West, purchased and restored the home for use as a museum in 1958. They added electricity as part of the renovation project, Audubon art, antique furnishings from the early 1800’s including some that belonged to the original Geiger family, and opened the museum in 1960. The Museum is currently operated by the Wolfson family through the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation.