The Key West Art and Historical Society has been the biggest custodian of Florida Keys history since the 1950s. The facility holds three National Landmarks, which continue to inspire and educate locals and visitors through research and the exhibition of diverse collections of objects. The society has continued to preserve the history of Fort East Martello, the Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters, and the recently opened Customs House.

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The non-profit society is dedicated to the preservation of Florida Keys history, with a collection of artifacts and historical structures. The society has one mission:To preserve the history of the Florida Keys by exhibiting its historical collections and architecture for the purpose of the education of the public. Its vision is to exhibit cultural heritage and also work with genealogists, display local art, and showcase socioeconomic and environmental history.

While visiting the KWAHS, be sure to check out the three different historical sites.

The Custom House

A great tower at the seaport, the Customs House was originally the offices of the postal services as well as the customs office.It was also the district court’s main facility at the time. Be inspired by the great architectural designs of the 1890s, built on demand to accommodate the increased population and for the storage of wealth accumulated during trade.

The house is adjacent to a U.S.Navy base and became the U.S. Navy headquarters for their operations during Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico operations. The two-storied building hosts great arts and people’s history and holds events every once in a while. The Customs House is open daily throughout the whole year, except for Christmas. Opening hours are from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Entry fees range from $5 to $10, with free entry to KWAHS members. Group and rental facilities are available upon request.

Lighthouse Towers and Keepers Quarters

In 1823, there was a need to erect a light house to provide safety for the military navigating the reefs through the Florida Keys. The lighthouse was opened in 1848 and a woman was assigned as the keeper. After technological advancement, the house did not require a full-time keeper and was therefore decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard. The lighthouse stands tall as a museum of heritage to the people who braved the bad weather and threats of war.

While visiting, one can explore the belongings, photos, and informational materials of those who lived there. You can also take the 88 steps up to the light deck and enjoy an incredible view. The facility is open all year round except Christmas Day. Opening hours are from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Charges are as little as $5 for students to $10 for adults and free for KWAHS members

Fort East Martello

This was constructed to offer extra protection to the Florida Keys from any possible sea threats during wartime. Fort East Martello was controlled by U.S. Navy to ensure no battles took place around the island. Later the facility was abandoned in its unfinished state.

In 1950, people volunteered to maintain its upkeep and cleared debris while renovating the area to its original 1860s design. Today, you can explore the metal sculptures of Stanley Papio, such asGhosts of East Martello and Robert the Doll.

Opening hours are 9:30am to 4:30pm and the landmarks are closed on Christmas day. Charges are affordable, ranging from $5 to $10 for adults.

The KWAHS offers learning opportunities for adults and children and there are also camping services with several events held across the year.


281 Front St., Key West, FL 33040, Phone: 305-295-6616

Back to: Key West

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