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A Guide to John Audubon's visit to the Florida Keys 

 

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Hotels and motels
Florida Keys
and Key West

 

 

 

 

 

 


AUDUBON IN THE FLORIDA KEYS


 

 

INDEX

  
AUDUBON


INDIAN KEY
1832


CORMORANT


ROSEATE
TERN


GRAY
KINGBIRD


REDDISH
EGRET


LOUISIANA
HERON


SANDY KEY


WHITE IBIS


WILLET

 
ZENAIDA
DOVE


WHITE
CROWNED
PIGEON


THE AUDUBON HOUSE IN
KEY WEST


AUDUBON'S
KEY WEST


KEY WEST AFTER
AUDUBON


ROSEATE
SPOONBILL


GREAT
WHITE
HERON


GREAT
BLUE
HERON


KEY WEST
DOVE


FLAMINGOS


BLUE-
HEADED
QUAIL DOVE


FRIGATE BIRD


BROWN
PELICAN


MANGROVE
CUCKOO


TORTUGAS


SOOTY
TERN


BLACK
HEADED GULL


BROWN
NODDY


CAYENNE
TERN


BROWN
BOOBY


SANDWICH
TERN


NIGHT
HERON


GREENSHANK


GREAT
MARBLED
GODWIT


MANGO
HUMMING-
BIRD


TROPIC
BIRD




BIRDING

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The Audubon House in Key West    

 

Audubon House in Key West 


 

The Audubon House in Key West, the Wolfson Restoration and the Birds in America Folio

 
 

The Audubon House ( formerly the Geiger House)

The story behind the Audubon House begins with Audubon's painting of the White Crowned Pigeon pictured below.

 

Audubon painting of White-crowned Pigeon from Birds of America

Above image from Historical Museum of Southern Florida - Audubon images at the Historical Museum website were produced from prints of an original Elephant Folio belonging to the museum. http://www.historical-museum.org/collect/audubon/audubon.htm)

 

 

TO BUY
Click Here for information on a 24" x 19.5" White Crowned Pigeon print

Audubon wrote about the plants shown on this print,

"The Rough-leaved Cordia

This plant, on account of its large tubular scarlet flowers, is one of the most beautiful of the West Indian trees. I saw only two individuals at Key west, where we supposed, they had been introduced from Cuba. They were about fifteen feet high, the stem having a diameter of only five or six inches. They were in full bloom in the early part of May, and their broad deep green leaves, and splendid red blossoms, mingled with the variety of plants around me, rendered their appearance delightful. Both trees were on private property, and grew in a yard opposite to that of Dr. Strobel, through whose influence I procured a large bough, from which the drawing was made, with assistance of Mr. Lehman. I was informed that they continue to flower nearly the whole summer"

Historians using Key West records have been able to document that Strobel's neighbor was Captain Geiger.  The cordia tree thus became part of Key's history when the tree took on the additional name of Geiger tree. Named after Captain John H. Geiger, who built his home on Whitehead Street in Key West, the name "Geiger tree" is likely of local origin inspired by Audubon's engraving of Captain Geiger's beautiful flowering cordia tree with white-crowned pigeons sitting in a branch. Audubon's assistant, George Lehman painted the Geiger tree.

The Geiger House was purchased in 1960 and restored as a house museum by Mitchell and Frances Wolfson. Given the name Audubon House, it celebrates Audubon's trip to the Keys. Visitors to the Key West have mistakenly assumed that Audubon stayed there, but Audubon slept aboard the revenue cutter, Marion. The restored home of Captain Geiger along with a lovely garden and a Geiger tree may be viewed by visiting the Audubon "Geiger" House and Gardens on Whitehead Street in Key West. An excellent self-guiding audio tape of the Audubon House gives a vivid picture of Geiger's family life in the 1830s in Key West, and the home's interior displays a number of Audubon prints from The Birds In America.

 

Audubon House Florida postcard

audubon_house_postcard

Audubon House Myth

The back of the postcard shown above which was produced by Koppel Color Cards of Hawthorne, N.J. , mistakenly explains that

"The Audubon House, Key West, Florida, stands today as it stood in the 1830's, when its windows overlooked a page unique in American history. Its owner, master pilot John Geiger, played host to naturalist James Audubon, who produced many of his famous bird paintings in the upstairs study. "

Historians are fairly certain Audubon never stayed in this house. He never makes mention of John Geiger in his writing and he had assured his wife he would stay aboard the Revenue cutter, Marion, so as not to be exposed to the "night fever" of the tropics. His writings reflect this and as far as researchers know he slept on the Marion except for his stay at Indian Key where he "slept in swinging hammocks under the eaves of the piazza" of Mr. Egan's home.

 

Recent Research

Until just recently guidebooks and local historians represented that the Geiger house was built in 1830 and that John Audubon visited it during his stay at Key West in 1832. Local Keys newspapers in 2004 reported that Katia D. Hechema, a consultant hired by the Audubon House, researched deeds, tax rolls, and old newspaper advertisements and concluded that the Audubon House was built after the 1846 hurricane, most likely in 1850. Her report is supplemented by documentation by George Born an architectural historian. Since John Audubon visited Key West in 1832 this particular home of the Geiger family could not have been visited by Audubon.

Historians believe that Geiger moved to Key West sometime in the 1820s. In 1829 Gieger married Lucretia Sanders from the Bahamas. They had twelve children. Documented records of previous Geiger homes before the one now known as the "Audubon House" are unclear.

 

Birds of America

Mitchell Wolfson purchased a Birds of America folio from Duncan H. Read of Virginia in 1960, and for a time displayed the folio in the Audubon House in Key West. The folio was stolen, and later recovered. This same folio was acquired from the Audubon House by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. The collection was moved to Miami and placed on exhibit. Interestingly, funds from Mr. Wolfson made this purchase by the Museum possible.

This same folio which had been on display at the Audubon House and is now the property of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida had been purchased by Duncan H. Read in 1935 and loaned to the National Audubon Society until the Society acquired its own copy in 1953.

To see the original prints from the Elephant Portfolio of Birds in America visit the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, 101 West Flagler Street, Miami, Florida.

 

For more information on Birds Of America and the Original Havell Prints go to Audubon Prints.

 

 

 

 


 

The Houses of Key West 
 
A good book to buy to learn about the houses of key West.
 
Book Cover for the Houses of key West
 
Key West Houses
 
Amazon Reader Reviewer: keywestconch from North Central Florida. I love this book. If you enjoy the unique look of Key West Conch architecture you will enjoy this book. Color full page and full page plus photographs fill the book. Most pictures are full close-ups of the front of the house. It is a nice reminder of time spent in Key West. If you are interested in architecture it contains examples of the various unique Key West styles used. I enjoyed looking at picture of the famous houses and reading about why they are famous. Almost forgot it, contains the addresses of the houses in case you want to see them for yourself.
 
 
 

Go to Key West Houses for information on this book by Leslie Linsley

 
cover for Key West Houses
 
No Review 
 

cover for the Key West DVD To order The Key West DVD

 

The Key West DVD - a new generation travel guide. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the Key West DVD is worth at least a million or two. The Key West DVD features of entertaining and informative footage centering on the "American Caribbean" island of Key West, it is a high-quality, well written & professionally produced film capturing the essence and experience of this small, out-of-the-way destination town. Be like the locals and get a heads-up on where to eat, shop, sightsee and more!

Get ready for an upcoming visit (or re-live an old vacation) by bringing the sights and sounds of Key West into your home! And if a Key West vacation is out of your budget right now, you can "be there on DVD" for very little!

 

 

 


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