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Audubon House

1 Stop 1 (305) 294-2116 open Daily 9:30 AM to 4:15 PM
key west audubon house

The Audubon House marks the beginning of the restoration movement in Key West. Saved from being demolished in 1958, the 19th century Key West gem is a historic museum featuring the artwork of John James Audubon. Famous for his exquisite drawings of birds in their natural habitat, Audubon stayed in the home in 1832.

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Visitors to the museum can tour the home and gardens where they’ll learn interesting tales and facts about local history while viewing 28 of Audubon’s original first edition works. Gorgeous antiques and time-period furnishings are also a highlight, giving guests a taste of the sophistication and style of Key West during the 19th century.

Be sure to stop in at the gift shop for original Audubon prints, books on local history and nature, toys and other collectible items.

The Story of John James Audubon

The tale of John Audubon is one of tenacity and perseverance. Born in Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), he was the illegitimate son of a French merchant captain and plantation owner whose mistress died when Audubon was an infant. He moved back to France with his father at the age of four and was adopted by his legal wife. In 1803, at the age of 18, Audubon was sent to his family’s Pennsylvania estate to avoid being drafted into Napoleon’s army and it was there he hunted, studied and drew birds.

In 1820, Audubon took a leap of faith with his art and departed on a journey down the Mississippi River to paint the birds of North America. In 1826 he took his collection to England where his life-size, highly detailed portraits of birds, accompanied by his own observations of the animals and the wilderness, gained him notoriety as an artist in the height of the European Romantic era. Audubon’s reputation was more than an artist, but also a naturalist, playing an integral role in discovering and identifying North America’s bird species.

He made his way as far south as Key West in 1832 where he was hosted by Dr. Benjamin Strobel, who owned a home on the property that is now called the Audubon House. Of Audubon’s 435 drawings cataloging the birds of North America, 22 represent birds that he observed and painted during his time in Florida.

History of the Audubon House

key west customs houseThe home that stands today was built between 1846 and 1849 by Captain John Huling Geiger after a hurricane destroyed many of the homes on the island. Geiger was one of Key West’s wealthiest men, and he wanted a home befitting of his family’s stature in the community. He used the best carpenters and finest materials available for his mansion that was built in the American Classic Revival architectural style. The home’s frame and floors are made of durable and luxurious Dade County Pine, while the exterior doors are cypress and the staircase is mahogany. At the time, the Custom House had not yet been built and the home enjoyed unobstructed views of the sea.

Ten generations of Geigers occupied the home until it fell into disrepair in the 1950s. The house was slated for demolition in 1958 when another longtime Florida family, the Wolfsons, stepped in to purchase it and restore it to its former glory. The Audubon House Museum opened in 1960 commemorating Audubon’s 1832 visit to Key West.

Must-See Points of Interest

The Museum & Gallery

On a tour of the museum, you’ll discover 19th century furniture, including several original items belonging to the Geiger family. Highlights include a portrait of Captain Geiger and an original dining room table. You’ll also see Audubon’s magnificent original artwork depicting Florida’s birds, including brown pelicans, cormorants, roseate spoonbills, herons, the Key West dove and many more. Keep your eyes peeled for these species in the wild once you leave the house.

Tropical Gardens

In the gardens, delicate orchids, pretty bromeliads, lush tropical foliage, an herb garden and an 1840s-style nursery provide a lush retreat. Spanning an entire acre, it’s believed that the delicate flowers found in the gardens inspired Audubon’s drawings.

Cook House

While in the gardens you’ll also find a replica of an 1850s cook house, an outdoor kitchen commonly used during that time period to prevent the home from fire hazards and over heating due to the open hearth.

Museum Store

Be sure to stop in at the gift shop for original Audubon prints, books on local history and nature, toys and other collectible items.

Tips for Visiting

  • Hours of Operation: Daily 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. / Gallery & Gift Shop open until 5 p.m.
  • Admission: $12; Students $7.50; Children 6-12, $5; Under 6 free.
  • Address & Phone Number: 205 Whitehead Street; 305-294-2116

Nearby Attractions

After discovering the artistic work of John James Audubon and his contributions as a naturalist, make your way to these nearby attractions.

cuntom house key westCustom House Museum

For a bit of history and a look at how Key West got to where it is today, stop in at the Key West Museum of Art and History inside the Custom House. Built in 1891, the Custom House had many uses including a post office, court house and government center. Today, after a $9 million restoration, the beautiful red brick building is as glorious as it was back in the day and is home to moving works of art that portray the colorful past of Key West and historic national events. Self guided tours take you through the era of pirates and tobacco salesmen, to the life and career of Ernest Hemingway and beyond.

See Mario Sanchez’s wood paintings of old Key West and portraits of famous Key West residents by Paul Collins. Find out how the Navy got rid of the pirates and how Key West went from riches to bankruptcy…and back. It’s all here for you to discover.

mallory square shopsMallory Square

Witness one of the world’s most majestic settings at Mallory Square. Here’s where everyone comes to see, eat, shop and linger. Buy a locally collected sea sponge, peruse a Wyland original in the gallery and stop in at the famous Hog’s Breath Saloon. Mallory Square is where it’s all at and where it all comes together. It’s also where the evening transforms into the renowned sunset celebration and when street performers, colorful entertainers and mouth-watering foods emerge as the sun begins to descend. Browse through the unique shops, pick up a souvenir at Ron Jon Surf Shop and see the local attractions. Find out what all the excitement is about.

A visit to Key West must include a stop at Mallory Square.

key west waterfront playhouse theaterWaterfront Playhouse Theater

Located on Mallory Square, the Waterfront Playhouse Theater is the oldest continuously running theatre group in Florida. For 65 years, the theater has brought laughter and entertainment to the residents and tourists of the Keys. Housed inside a historic old brick building that dates back to the 1850’s, the group presents comedy and drama productions from December to June and offers outreach programs to children and other community groups in Key West.

key west ripleys believe it or notRipley’s Believe It or Not!

The perfect complement to the odd and unusual sites in Key West, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is a spectacle to be enjoyed by adults and children of all ages. The museum features 500 exhibits of strange, out-of-this-world items that made Ripley’s famous. As you tour through displays and see photographs and artifacts, you most definitely wonder- is it real or not? Located on famous Duval Street, stop in to get out of the hot sun—stay awhile to witness the weirdness.

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