KEY WEST, Florida Keys - From its cigar-makers' cottages to its Victorian mansions, Key West's architecture is as individualistic and unique as the island itself. Visitors can explore houses exemplifying that rich architectural tradition, as well as contemporary Keys design, during weekend house tours in January, February and March 2012.
The annual tours are presented by the nonprofit Old Island Restoration Foundation, which was established in 1960 to promote the restoration and preservation of Key West's historically significant buildings.
Tours are planned Friday and Saturday, Jan. 20-21, Feb. 17-18 and March 16-17. Each showcases multiple homes that are significant historic buildings, creative renovations or examples of the Keys lifestyle. Tour participants typically discover unique interiors, lush gardens and imaginatively designed outdoor living areas.
Key West's Old Town contains what is believed to be the largest predominantly wooden historic district in the United States with almost 3,000 structures. In part because of the OIRF's work in raising awareness about the historic value of Key West structures, today scores of restored properties flourish as single-family homes, bed-and-breakfast guesthouses and museum attractions.
During the house tours, OIRF volunteers serve as guides at each stop, informing visitors about each featured house's history, architecture, décor and garden.
The January tours are set for 5-8 p.m. both evenings. Transportation is to be offered free aboard select Conch Tour Trains or participants can proceed from house to house at their own pace. Conch Tour Train seating is limited, so early reservations are encouraged.
The February and March tours are offered 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with visitors responsible for their own transportation.
Tickets for each tour cost $25 per person and include a list of houses and a map.
Tour information and ticketing: www.oirf.org
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest