Casa Cayo Hueso – The Southernmost House in the United States, is located in Key West, FL (along with all of the other southernmosts). On the right is a historic photo of the house from the Historic Markers Tour website. Here is the house history in a nutshell, copied from a sign inside of the hotel.
The Southernmost House was built in 1897 by Judge Vinning Harris. Harris’s wife was the youngest daughter (Florida Curry) of Florida’s first millionaire William Curry. The house was designed as a one bedroom mansion, to only accommodate the couple themselves. The style of the house projects one of the best examples of Queen Anne Victorian architecture, making it the second most reproduced image of any house in America, behind the White House. Many historical figures and celebrities have enjoyed the mansion’s elegance as well as the beautiful oceanfront setting.
Mrs. Harris engaged Thomas Edison to oversee the electrical design and installation of the house. The Harrises had invested in the Overseas Railroad to Key West, which was developed by Henry Flagler, who was a visitor to the house during the early period.
During the Prohibition period from 1919-1933, the mansion served as a “speakeasy” club. The first floor served as the restaurant, the second floor for casino gambling, and the third floor for “socializing.”
During this period, the mansion was visited by many celebrities and notorious gangsters en route to Havana. A little known secret of the house is the bullet hole in the front window of the reception salon, was said to be meant for Al Capone. The house was purchased in 1939 by the Ramos family who continued to operate it as a cafe/night club called “Cafe Cayo Hueso,” which hosted such notables as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote, Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Louis Armstrong, Charles Lindbergh and Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor of the radio-telegraph system. Then, in 1949, the Ramos family completely renovated the mansion for use as their private residence.
The Ramos family, originally from Spain, was one of Florida’s oldest merchant families, who settled in Spanish Colonial Florida (in St. Augustine) and moved to Key West in 1819. Because of their ties to the Spanish Royal family they hosted King Juan Carlos of Spain on several occasions. In fact, a landing pad was added to the oceanfront deck to accommodate his private helicopter.
Five presidents of the United States were hosted at the Southernmost House. They were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, and James E. Carter, Jr.
The house served as the Ramos-Lopez family residence until 1996 when the mansion was completely renovated and converted into the luxury guest house as it remains today…a uniquely beautiful piece of Florida’s colonial history.
Casa Cayo Hueso
The Southernmost House
in the Continental United States
Key West, Florida
1. Owned by: Ramos-Lopez Family 1939-present
Owned by: Harris Family 1900-1939
2. Judge Jeptha Harris was beloved and respected jurist.
Definitely not a party animal. A circuit judge, not a salvage judge!
3. No ballroom on second floor – never was and never will be.
Ramos-Lopez Family – One of Florida’s oldest merchant families. Established in Spanish Colonial Florida at St. Augustine and moved to Key West in 1819.
I find this to be a very intriguing sign, because if I were to list facts outside of my establishment, I would list some from the previously quoted history of the home, not the fact that there is no ballroom on the second floor. There must be more to this story…
And by the way, do you think that Florida Curry caught any grief growing up about her name? She was born & raised in Florida, after all.