In Search of Rooftops Below the Battery (Key West, Florida)

As much as it pains me to leave New York City, it is late January and a trip south seemed in order, so here I am in Key West, Florida.  I may be away from the hub-bub of America’s favorite city but I’m still roof exploring in the tropical playground of Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway and Harry Truman.

Photo by Leslie Adatto

It’s a stay-cool-away-from-the-sun-on-the-porch-and-balcony culture more so than one that relishes basking in the full exposure of a roof garden, but I managed to find a lovely sun-worshiping roof deck to share with you.  No surprise, the architecture of this apartment complex resembles mid-century Los Angeles much more than the melding of Victorian, Bahamian and New England styles of the most notable Key West historical homes.  This lovely sun deck above two floors of apartments that surround a gorgeous tropical garden lets the lucky residents tan and relax among the palm tree tops, just blocks from the Atlantic Ocean on the south end of Key West.

Photo by Leslie Adatto

When you LOOK UP, you’ll see that some of the historical New England style homes, especially those closest to the ocean, have a rooftop widow’s walk.  The “Southernmost House,” an elaborate, oceanfront 1896 Victorian guest house with a large private pool area boasts such a detail.  A widow’s walk is “a railed rooftop platform often with a small enclosed cupola frequently found on 19th century North American houses. The name comes from the wives of mariners, who would watch for their spouses’ return, often in vain as the ocean took the lives of many mariners, leaving the women as widows. Widow’s walks are in fact a standard decorative feature of Italianate architecture, which was very popular during the height of the Age of Sail in many North American coastal communities.”

Photo by Leslie Adatto

Otherwise, in the midst of the touristy end of Duval Street is a completely charmless rooftop bar and viewing area on top of the tallest building in Key West, the five-floor La Concha Hotel on Duval Street.  Each evening just before sunset, dozens of tourists fight to get in one of the two elevators (unbelievably, there is no stair access!) to drink cocktails from cheap plastic glasses and witness the event, but it is much more pleasant to walk to the pier at the south end of Duval Street and see Nature’s evening display from there.  By the way, this pier is also a great place to see the sunrise.

I’ve exhausted my discoveries of the Key West rooftop culture, so what’s an urban roof explorer to do?  Jet back to NYC, of course!

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