E.H. Gato Cigar Factory

The Gato Cigar Factory was constructed by Eduardo H. Gato in 1916. This Neo-Classiscal Revival, poured- concrete structure with a large central courtyard was constructed after a earlier wood frame factory on this site burned. Numerous windows provided much needed light for the workers. It is also one of the earliest American integrated workplaces where Cuban, African, and Bahamian- Americans, and whites worked side by side while their children attended the same school. Small cottages were built near the factory to house the workers, and became an area known as Gatoville. The factory was a political center as workers raised funds to support efforts to free Cuba from Spain. The cigar industry was critical to Key West’s economy just before the 20th century, but declined in the early 1900’s as cigar manufacturers moved to Tampa. In 1942 the Gato factory was sold to the Department of the Navy for use as a military barracks and cafeteria, and later served as the Navy Commissary until 1989. In 1998 Monroe County Obtained the property, and in 2001 completed a rehabilitation to make the building