100. Indian Block

Historic Marker number 100 is located at 1922 Staples at the corner of Staples and 2nd Street.

Indian blocks are rusticated concrete building blocks. The row of 6 Indian block cottages before you were built as worker housing for the Martin Havana Cigar Factory across the street (for more on the Martin Havana Cigar Factory see Historic Marker # 15).

Key West was prone to fires from its inception in 1822. Residential as well as commercial buildings were constructed primarily of wood with wooden shingle roofs. They were built in close proximity to surrounding structures due to the limited size of what is now the Historic District.

The danger of fires getting out of hand in such a dry wooden atmosphere was a constant threat. The concern was ever present considering the only source of water was stored in cisterns and was not readily available in large quantities to extinguish large fires.

The use of Indian block construction became a popular building material at the turn of the 20th century. The all concrete material was heralded as fire proof.

Contractors were able to purchase portable concrete forms that shaped hand mixed cement into uniform blocks of concrete with an easily recognizable rusticated face. When the concrete cured, the forms were removed and the blocks were stacked in place with a lime based grout to hold them together.

Indian block construction is fire resistant but was developed without the rebar bracing used in modern construction. The unreinforced stacked block design did not fare as well in hurricane winds.

Other examples of large Indian Block buildings are the Fire House Museum at Historic Marker # 9 and Bruce Hall at Historic Marker # 33.