Built in 1896 at a cost of $250,000, the Queen Anne-style mansion was originally the private residence of Judge Vining Harris. His wife, Florida Curry, was the youngest daughter of the state’s first millionaire William Curry. A prominent Florida family, the Curry’s built eight mansions within the Key West Historic District. Although the home was designed with only a single bedroom, it featured elegant public rooms, large stained glass windows to let in cool ocean breezes and multi-story balconies offering dramatic ocean vistas. Mrs. Harris engaged Thomas Edison to oversee the installation of electric lighting, which was a novelty at the time. Investors in Henry Flagler’s overseas railroad, the family entertained the industrialist during the construction of this engineering marvel.
During Prohibition, the home became a speakeasy. While the first floor served as a restaurant, the second floor was used as a casino, and the top floor was the backdrop for socializing. Celebrities and notorious gangsters would frequent the establishment while on their way to Havana. In 1939, it became the Café Cayo Hueso, a Cuban-style nightclub. The club hosted legendary figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote as well as Louis Armstrong, Gloria Swanson and Tallulah Bankhead.
In the early 1950s, the Victorian mansion was converted back into a private residence. In addition to King Juan Carlos of Spain, the Southernmost House has welcomed five U.S. presidents. They are Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Four decades later, the mansion was renovated into the modern-day, 18-room boutique hotel that features numerous modern amenities.
Source: Key West Tours