The Custom House

The Custom House, built in 1891, served as a post office, court house and government center when wrecking made Key West the richest city, per capita, in the U.S. But by the 1930s, the island city was bankrupt. Eventually, the building was boarded up and completely abandoned. Now, after a 9-year, $9 million restoration project, the Key West Art & Historical Society has returned the big red brick building to its former glory.

  • See folk artist Mario Sanchez’s colorful wood paintings of old Key West.
  • Meet Key West’s famous people through portraits by Paul Collins.
  • Stand in the very room where the U.S. decided to go to war with Spain, following the sinking of the battleship USS Maine.
  • Learn about Ernest Hemingway’s life in Key West, where he wrote many of his most famous novels. See his bloodstained WWI uniform and other personal items that created his legendary status as an adventurer and writer.
  • Discover how pirates prowled the inlets of the Keys to hide themselves and their loot – and how the Navy rid the local waters of the “Brethren of the Coast”.