15. Don Louis Martinez Cigar Factory

Historic Marker 15 is located at 2010 Staples Street between Second and Third Streets.

In the early 20th century, there were many cigar manufacturers in Key West. In 1909, a number of their large cigar factories, including the original Martinez Havana Company building located at 1110 Packer Street, were destroyed by a devastating hurricane.

This building you are looking at, was Don Luis Martinez's answer to that disaster and was designed to be hurricane proof.

The structure used all the best building technology of the day. The factory walls were constructed of solid concrete blocks. These blocks were called "Indian blocks" due to their rough exterior surfaces. At the time, they were considered one of the best materials to use to "fireproof" a structure. In addition, oversized roof and floor beams were used to hold the building together in high winds.

The round walled office attached to the rear of the building was originally constructed as an elevated cistern that protected fresh rainwater from flooding associated with hurricanes.

The Martinez Havana Cigar Factory is one of only three masonry cigar factory buildings still remaining in what was once the cigar capital of the United States.

The Martinez Havana Company constructed this building, but due to a labor strike, went out of business by 1918. The factory, which reopened in 1919 as a branch of Tampa's Santaella Company, operated until 1935 when the company suddenly left Key West.

Don Luis Martinez was described as one of the most intelligent and amiable personalities in the Havana cigar business.

Born in 1856 at Alquizzar, Cuba, Martinez was rolling cigars when he was 12 years old. By the age of 20, he was a cigar manufacturer in Havana, and by the time he was 25 years old, he owned the San Geronimo Tobacco Plantation.

His most famous cigar brand, "La Flor de Luis Martinez," gained nationwide popularity when Thomas Marshal, the Vice-President of the United States, called the Martinez Havana cigar "the brand which makes me forget the cares that infest the day." This quote was used for years in the company's advertisements.

In 1928 the J. C. Newman Cigar Company acquired the brand. Today, the Flor de Luis Martinez is the only Key West cigar brand still being produced by the Luis Martinez Cigar Company in Tampa, Florida.