62. Sawyer-Navarro House

Historic Marker number 62 is located at 426 Elizabeth Street between Fleming and Eaton Streets.

This magnificent two and a half-story building features a Classic Revival style noteworthy for its detailing, symmetry, fine craftsmanship, and unique fretwork.

The house holds the history of two accomplished families and tells a moving story.

It is the second home constructed at Duval and Fleming Streets by master builder John T. Sawyer. It was built to replace his first mansion, which was lost in the Great Fire of 1886. The inferno started next to the San Carlos Institute on Duval Street and followed a course through the center of town destroying everything in its path. By the end of its 12-hour rampage the conflagration had consumed two thirds of the commercial district.

To understand how this elegant home could rise so quickly from the ashes of the worst fire in the island's history, we should look at the achievements of John Sawyer. He was born in 1853 in the Bahamas during his family's emigration from Ireland to the southern states of Florida and Georgia. By 1872 he had moved to Key West where he gained employment as a journeyman carpenter.

Only 16 years later he was recognized as Key West's best builder as well as a leading merchant on the island. His successes were reflected in his first home, which stood at the corner of Duval and Fleming Streets. By all accounts, it was a grand house that equaled any of the large houses and mansions that lined the heart of our historic district.

John Sawyer's accomplishments included ownership of a general merchandise store, a ship chandlery, and the Steamboat City of Key West. He also operated a steamship line with service to Baltimore. He was a sponger, banker, and a city commissioner for 6 years.

In 1912 he sold his Duval property and moved his house to its present location on the corner of Elizabeth and Fleming Streets.

(For more information on the legacy of historical home moving, dial #162 at the end of this narration)

The relocation was part of the exodus of grand homes from Duval Street to make way for commerce and urban progress. The Kress & Company five and dime store replaced the house.

Shortly after it was moved, Daniel and Eva Navarro purchased the house. It remained in the family for 70 years. Mr. Navarro solidified his name and fortune in the automotive trade. He began with an auto garage and by 1928 was the owner of Gato & Navarro, Incorporated, a car dealer and automotive repair company.

The Sawyer-Navarro house was placed on the National Register in 1970.