At 1128 Olivia, between White and Frances Street stands an interesting building. It looks like a barn, and, in fact, it once was home to horses and mules that walked the streets of Key West. It’s the carriage barn and one of last of its kind in Key West.
In the Begining
Horses, mules, and horse-drawn carriages used to walk the streets of Key West. These were considered normal transportation more than a century ago. Today, it’s cars, scooters, and bikes roaming the streets of Old Town.
Cars were not very common in Key West until the railroad was finished in 1912. Before then, cars had to be barged or ferried into town. Plus, they weren’t that comfortable or easy to drive since most of the roads were not paved.
This building, at 1128 Olivia, was first noticed on the 1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. You can explore the Library of Congress for the actual maps. It was originally designed as a horse and mule stall. The telltale signs are the shiplap siding, metal clad roof and sliding barn doors. By the 20th century, it had evolved into a two bay structure with a dirt floor and storage upstairs. The support beams of the structure are only six feet apart, so it didn’t work well as a garage for cars.
But, today, you can walk by the structure and it still resembles a carriage barn. The siding is still shiplap and the barn doors are still evident. These type of structures were very common in Old Key West, but today, this is one of the last examples of a carriage barn. Most of the others have been torn down or remolded beyond recognition of a carriage barn.
As I walk by this place, I wonder what it would be like to live in such a structure. I can only hope traces of the structure’s past are left inside as a reminder to those who live there.