By Anthony Guntert

In an all too familiar sad sight, visitors to the Crane Point Hammock Museum & Nature Trail have for years reached the terminus of the trails and gazed upon the old bones of a magnificent structure, the Crane House. Modeled after the styles of legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the house’s design is unique to the Keys, with many distinct art pieces hidden around the house such as the Cranes’ beloved dogs that can be seen carved where the ceiling begins in an upstairs room. The house has been nominated for historic designation due to the important legacy of the Crane family in preserving the last pure hardwood hammock in Marathon from development in the ’50s as well as its often unknown architectural importance. 

Finally, after years slowly wasting away, a state grant alongside private donations totaling more than $319,000 has given the property new life since construction began last month. Crane Point’s CEO, Charlotte Quinn, said that “the Crane House is being fully rehabbed on the outside and is set to finish in July. Although the inside won’t be renovated at this time, it’ll be opened up for the public to admire again. They will be able to see the way the Cranes originally lived, as well as the original indoor colors of pinks, grays, lime greens and yellows.” 

Everything will be repaired as it was made, including repainting the original outdoor colors of cream with a hint of yellow and dark brown trim. All windows and doors will also be rehabbed to mint condition with the old ramp and the courtyard being revamped into the beautiful space the Cranes would’ve experienced back in the house’s heyday of the ’50s. 

“To me,” said Quinn, “the work that they’re doing is just absolutely amazing because the house was in very, very bad shape.”

Along with the newly accessible upstairs living areas, what used to be a lab on the lower floor is being turned into an air-conditioned classroom for summer camps and groups. Crane Point’s many walking paths, natural attractions and places of interest have all had updates as well, giving an injection of much needed vigor to this natural oasis. 

Since November 2020, the City of Marathon had been working with Crane Point to secure a state grant to rejuvenate a key piece of Marathon history at the tip of the beloved nature preserve. George Garrett, board chairman of Crane Point and Marathon city manager, spoke on the grant bids’ travels through the state review process in Tallahassee. (While the ticket was low on the priority list, its passionate and well-written form helped it make the cut, Garrett said.) After a lengthy process, the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources, assisted by the Florida Historical Commission, approved the proposal written by Crane Point board member and City of Marathon Planning Director Brian Shea to restore the historic Crane House to its glory days. 

Further supported by a sponsorship from the Friends of The Florida Land and Sea Trust and Crane Point Hammock, architecture firm RK&K and contractors All Keys Construction have taken on the important job to reface the structure to be true to its original form and function using the ingredients of the era the house was built. 

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Quinn hopes there are more grants to come, to could pay to rehab the upstairs space into something like a small wedding or business venue.  “We’re just thrilled to have the funding and have (the house) look the way it’s supposed to look, have it be safe where people will be able to explore inside,” she said.

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