Historic Marker 21 is located on the 1100 block of Simonton.
Between 1880 and the early 1900’s there was an influx of Cuban expatriates into Key West. They were escaping the oppression of the Spanish Colonial rule of Cuba. This provided the 200 cigar factories in Key West to have a wealth of knowledge and skill to choose from, but inversely caused their to be a shortage of housing for the workers. These circumstances provided the groundwork for Gatoville to be born.
Edward H. Gato created the first successful industrial community in the United States. Gato needed a way to make sure he had the best rollers, in turn making the best cigars, working for him. He knew that by building 40 cigar makers cottages around his factory he would attract the most talented workers and they would produce some of the finest cigars.
The cigar maker cottages were simple wooden structures, most of them were two rooms, with a porch facing the street and an outhouse. These may not sound like much in today’s standards, but during the time these cottages were considered a luxury.
Not only did Gato provide a place for his workers to live, but he supported their entrepreneurial and community spirit. Gato encouraged them to start businesses of their own, ranging from groceries and saloons to confectionary shops and private schools. This was vastly different from most other industrial communities that would follow around the country.