Many of the buildings on our island have survived natural disasters, unusual twists of fate, abandonment and a wide range of adaptive uses in their lives.
The majestic house on the corner of Fleming and Simonton Streets is a good example of a building with more than nine lives.
The original house was built in 1884 by James Haskins as a single-family residence. A mere two years later it missed the sweep of Key West’s catastrophic fire of 1886 by just 20 feet.
The street level portion of the structure with its prominent bay window was created in 1889 to accommodate a “Gents Goods” store. The addition to the family home began its commercial life. In the following years, the expansive glass display windows featured a series of businesses including the local gas company, Fausto’s Food Palace and a furniture store.
As times changed, the single family living quarters of the house became a prim and proper boarding house in the early 1900s when it was converted to family apartments in the 1950s.
By the mid-1970s, the once lovely interior had been broken into a ramshackle warren of partitioned cubbyholes known as Q-Rooms. Q-Rooms stood for quiet accommodations. Rented on a weekly basis, the 21 sleeping spaces shared three bathrooms.
By that time, an order of Catholic nuns in New York inherited the property from the Haskins family through one of their daughters that had taken her vows as a nun. Upon her death, the church sold the building.
The Haskins house was extensively renovated and restored in 1987 and became the Marquesa Hotel and Café Marquesa. The renovation has received numerous preservation awards on the national, state and local levels and continues to be recognized as one of the top rated hotels and restaurants in Florida.
The structure was expanded in 1994 when two neighboring historic homes were combined with the Haskins house. One of the merged structures had started its life as a grocery store.