The La Concha was the first true Luxury Hotel in the Florida Keys, and it’s right in the center of Key West
The La Concha was the beginning of the first class hotels that would be constructed in Key West. It was built by Carl E. Aubuchon. The doors of this luxury hotel opened in January 1926.
The luxuries in this hotel included marble floors, elevators and private baths. All of these were new to Key West . Because of the luxuries and the warm climate all year round the La Concha attracted wealthy guests. Some of them were Industrialists, visiting dignitaries and all sorts of people who considered themselves to be high society.
Pan American World Airways began service from Key West to Cuba. The president located his office in the La Concha Hotel.
The Henry Flagler Railroad was completed connecting Key West to the mainland. The train was filled with tourist who wanted to visit the Florida Keys. They were attracted by the warm weather, Cuban Rum, Cuban Cigar Factories and the new luxury hotel.
Key West soon went broke. The stock market crashed in 1929 and the tourist trade ended. The La Concha was then unable to pay its bills. It was sold in 1930. The name was changed to The Key West Colonial Hotel.
In 1935 the Labor Day Hurricane destroyed 43 miles of Flagler’s Railroad tracks. Key West was cut off from the mainland. In 1938 the Overseas Highway was completed and opened. Once again Key West was connected to the tourist on the mainland.
Famous writers Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams were so inspired by this grand hotel that they both made mention of it in their writings.
Soon other luxury hotels were being built in Key West. The 1970 and 80's were bad times for the hotel. The rooms were empty of guests and they were boarded up. Rats, roaches and birds now called this hotel home. The bar on the rooftop was the only part of the hotel open.
Two hurricanes hit the Florida Keys in 1948. One of them caused damage to the guest rooms on the top floor where the bar is located. Repairs were made. Because of this the “penny cocktail hour,” was introduced. The owners used this as a lure to get people to the top of the hotel to prove to them that the damage had been repaired.
A year later the rooftop bar was opened and named The Quarterdeck. The atmosphere was as if you were on a ship. It had a bridge, quarterdeck and poopdeck.
In 1985 restorations began on the hotel. They planned to restore it to its original beauty. They used old photographs and interviewed local patrons to guide them in the restoration. After the inside was completed, they painted the drab mustard yellow exterior to pink. It reopened in 1986 and remains open today.
From the top of the La Concha you get a 360-degree view of Key West and the surrounding waters. You can see from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s really the best spot to see the sunset in Key West. It’s also the choice location for viewing the Fantasy Fest Parade.
Today the La Concha is one of the most popular hotels in the Florida Keys. It’s right in the middle of all the happenings. It’s located between Duval and Whitehead Street. From there it’s a short walk to anything you may want to do or see while visiting Key West.
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