91. Tennessee Williams Exhibit

Historic Marker number 91 is located at 513 Truman Avenue between Duval and Simonton Streets.

This 1884 bungalow is a part of the architectural history of Key West. It was built at the edge of Key West's Historic District on a street that was then known as Division Street. The street was so named because it was the demarcation line between the developed and relatively pristine portions of the island. By the 1900s, Key West's building growth crossed Division Street and had begun to encroach on the salt ponds. In little a more than 100 years, this private residence at the edge of town found itself in the center of Key West's thriving historic district.

During that period, a residential building built on the salt pond side of Division Street came to prominence as the home of Tennessee Williams. He began vacationing in Key West in 1941 and often stayed at the historic La Concha Hotel located on Duval Street. It is believed that he wrote the final draft of A Street Car Named Desire while staying there in 1947. He established residence in Key West in 1949 when he bought a house on Duncan Street which served his home until his death in 1983. It is now privately owned and not available to the public. During his time in Key West, Division Street was renamed Truman Avenue to honor President Harry Truman's stays in the Little Whitehouse (see Historic Marker # 59 for more on Truman's ties to Key West). In the 1940s, Key West had become a hub and gathering place for Avant Gardé artists, writers, entertainment icons, and intellectuals. Their works and influence became the backbone of the literary movement that resulted in Key West and the Florida Keys being recognized as the cultural and historical location it is today.

Tennessee Williams lived and worked in Key West for thirty-four years. He had a vibrant personality and was not only a valued friend to many of the distinguished luminaries of his day but a friend to the Key West community. During his time in Key West, he won two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama for his plays A Street Car Named Desire and A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

He oversaw the filming of his screenplay, The Rose Tattoo, in Key West in the early 1950s. The movie's Key West premiere was held at the famous San Carlos Institute (see Historic Marker # 63 for more information on the historic theatre). The now famous film was based on his Broadway play of the same name that won a Tony for best play in 1951. These accomplishments helped to establish Williams as a famous playwright and Key West as a literary and cultural destination for visitors from all over the world.

This permanent Exhibit of Tennessee Williams' memorabilia is provided by a not-for-profit organization that was established in 2013 and is run by a volunteer board. Its goal is to keep the literary legacy of this great writer and his life in Key West alive and available to the public. To this end, the exhibit showcases historic archival materials directly related to the writings and artistic creations that won Tennessee Williams praise as a writer.

Numerous paintings by Williams and other materials available in the Exhibit serve as a resource for scholars, literary enthusiasts, and the general public alike seeking to know and understand more about the man, his continuing global importance and influence, and the role that Key West played in nurturing his unique talent. This house served as a family home for most of its existence. It now has the equal responsibility of providing a home for the legacy of the famous playwright and resident of Key West -- Tennessee Williams.