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On the last of our 3 days in Key West, I decided to venture out on my own to visit some historic homes and museums. There are so many beautiful properties in Key West, but the one that made the biggest impression on me was Audubon House.
Inside you get a peek into the elegant life of the wealthy Geiger family. There are also many artworks on display by naturalist John James Audubon. My favourite part though was the small tropical garden that surrounds the home. I loved the bright colours and the peacefulness- a real oasis in an otherwise touristy part of Key West!
About the Audubon House and Captain John H. Geiger
Captain John H. Geiger was one of Key West’s wealthiest men in the mid-1800’s. As a harbor pilot and master wrecker, Geiger was a key player in the infamous industry that once made Key West the richest town in the country.
With his resources, Geiger bought the property he was renting on the corner of Whitehead and Greene Street. It was a prominent location, easily seen from the waterfront, therefore perfect for building a mansion to showcase his wealth and status in the community.
When it came to his new home, only the best would do for Captain Geiger. He hired the most skilled carpenters and used the finest materials, including mahogany, cypress and Dade Country Pine, a now extinct hardwood.
Once the American Classic Revival style house was completed, Geiger could sit on the grand front porch, admiring views of the ocean. I imagine him sitting there, waiting for a ship to hit the shallow reef, then racing over to save the crew in exchange for their cargo.
So with all this talk about Captain Geiger, you may be wondering why the house is called the Audubon House.
Well, in 1832 the famed naturalist John James Audubon arrived in Key West where he would spend six weeks observing and painting wildlife for his Birds of America series. He stayed nearby what is now the Geiger house and is believed to have visited the property, using the tropical garden as inspiration for some of his paintings. Local lore holds that Audubon took a branch from a special tree (now called the Geiger tree) to depict in one of his paintings.
Today, many prints of Audubon’s work are on display throughout the house, including an entire room dedicated to his 22 Birds of the Florida Keys.
My Visit to the Audubon House
When I first stepped onto the Audubon property I immediately fell in love with the bright, tropical garden that surrounded me. It’s almost as if the garden was designed specifically for photography because the foliage perfectly framed the house. I couldn’t help but take photo after photo!
Once I finally made my way inside, I was happy to see that the house wasn’t full of other tourists, like at the Ernest Hemingway Home. I was greeted by a volunteer who showed me the parlor and told me a bit about the house and Geiger family. Once I had some background knowledge I was free to wander around the different rooms.
The house was decorated with a beautiful collection of antique furniture. Most of it was not owned by the family, but is representative of how a house from the first half of the 19th century would have been furnished. There were a few items owned by the Geiger family that were on display including a painting of Captain Geiger.
The majority of the house is dedicated to the Geiger family but there is also a large of selection of John James Audubon’s work adorning the walls of the house. I thought it was especially interesting to see his 22 Birds of the Florida Keys since I had also encountered some of those birds during our time in the Keys.
My favourite part of the Audubon House was actually the second floor porch. I’ve always wanted to live in a house with big porch, so I easily pictured myself sitting in those rocking chairs looking out onto the peaceful garden below. I feel relaxed just thinking about it!
After touring the house, I headed back into the garden where I lingered, taking many pictures of the colourful plants. There was even a pond that had some fish swimming around in it.
As the afternoon came to an end, I had to tear myself away from the gardens. It was so beautiful and picture perfect that I honestly did not want to leave!
Final Thoughts About the Audubon House
Of all the beautiful historic homes I visited in Key West, the Audubon House was by far my favourite.
The house was gorgeous and well taken care of, as was the garden. I loved how the history of a prominent family was on display alongside some famous works of John James Audubon. I felt like I was getting a two for one deal!
The Audubon House also was the most enjoyable house/museum to visit because the cruise ship crowd seemed to have overlooked it. I had the place almost all to myself.
I am so glad I decided to visit the Audubon House- and to think I almost didn’t go in! I really did save the best for last that day.
Tips for Visiting the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
- The Audubon House is open daily from 9:30 am- 4:15 pm. The Gallery and Gift Shop is open from 9:30 am- 5:00 pm.
- Admission costs $12 for adults, $7.50 for students of any age and $5.00 for children 6-12. Entrance tickets are purchased in the gift shop.
*Hours and prices were correct at the time of publishing but can change without notice. Please confirm directly with service providers.
Accommodations in Key West
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I’d like to thank the Key West Attractions Association for providing me with a complimentary visit to the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. As always, I tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.