“This day has been marked on our calendars for a long time,” said Jed Dodds, executive director of The Studios of Key West. He was referring to the day that a huge internal, steel skeleton was inserted into the historic building at the corner of Simonton and Eaton streets, the Studios new home. The steel skeleton is necessary to support the planned rooftop garden and the events that will be staged there.
“With the beams in place, now we can finally start putting the building back together,” said Dodds, dwarfed by a huge crane lifting steel I-beams to be lowered through holes cut in the roof of the old Masonic Lodge. The I-beams connect to make 47 feet of steel from the ground floor to the roof.
Erected in 1951, the building was designed by famed Art Deco architect Henry Hohauser, the same man who brilliantly designed the iconic structures of South Beach. His buildings are easily recognizable for their styling — glass bricks, curved edges, and neon lighting.
“The building itself is a piece of art, so it is the perfect fit for the Studios of Key West,” said Dobbs. “I am excited about having a new space, but equally excited about all the events we will be able to stage.
The ground floor space will be turned into a gallery for the different exhibits throughout the year. On the second story is a 200-seat theater; a large open space with high ceilings which also includes a few of the original seats bearing nameplates such as “Gerald Adams” and “Glynn Archer” — two of Key West’s founding fathers. On the third story there will be studios for working artists, just like the original location at the Armory. The Studio’s rooftop will be converted into a garden that preserves the spectacular view — on a clear day visitors will be able to see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
DL Porter’s Assistant Project Manager Robert Blanchard said he had to jump through a few hoops to get the power lines cut off to operate the crane and to operate without a dumpster during Fantasy Fest. He and his company are tasked with finishing the building by the new year. Although it’s a short deadline, it’s one of Blanchard’s favorite projects.
“It is a lot different than working on regular hotels. It is a neat, unique structure with character and a stylish design,” said Blanchard.
When the building finally opens expect more concerts, exhibits and lectures from TSKW.