85. Arch House

Historic Marker number 85 is located on Eaton Street between William and Margaret Streets.

This unique structure is known as the Arch House and is believed to be the oldest remaining Carriage House in the Historic District. Key West has the distinction of being recognized as the largest collection of historic frame vernacular buildings in the US.

Built in the 1880s the house, along with a cluster of smaller outbuildings was a novelty of architectural design and function.

It was uncommon in Key West for the average person to possess a horse much less a carriage on the one by three mile island located more than a hundred miles from the rest of the Continent. Horses, food, building materials, and all of the essentials of life had to be brought in by sail boat or barge from the mainland.

The ability to steer your carriage off the crowded dirt lined streets into a private covered entryway was most assuredly a sign of wealth and distinction.

The carriage entryway may have also been used by the cigar factory located directly behind the Arch House. Built in the early 1800s, a cigar entrepreneur built the Alfonso Cigar Factory in the center of the block. It was a three story structure that produced Cuban Cigars featuring Cuban tobacco by skilled Cuban cigar artisans.

It was not uncommon to have a cigar factory near your home. By 1890, Key West had 200 cigar factories with 80 percent of the island's population producing one hundred million hand rolled cigars a year. This little piece of paradise became known as the Cigar Capital of the World.

By 1889, the Alfonso factory ceased operation and sat vacant. The loss of the cigar industry to Tampa, coupled with the exodus of the US Army after the Spanish American War, left many structures around town abandoned and neglected. The following decades saw many buildings lost to fire, hurricanes, and neglect.

The Arch House was no stranger to those realities but by chance withstood years of non-use and the ravages of time. Fortunately, a renewed interest in preservation in the 1970s saved the house and made it possible for the reconstruction of the cigar factory on its original footprint.

Through a series of preservation minded owners, the Arch House and the cigar factory still stand as a testament to an era of prosperity and an unusual architectural design that has withstood the test of time.