Audubon House and Tropical Gardens of Key West
Key West, Florida, USA
- Audubon House: This elegant American Classic Revival-style home furnished with antiques is a glimpse into the lives of the 19th-century moneyed elite.
- Tropical gardens: Wander the paths through lush tropical foliage, including exotic plants, bromeliads, orchids and plantings that inspired John James Audubon.
- Gallery of Fine Arts: A rare collection of 28 first-edition Audubon paintings by America's renowned ornithologist and naturalist, plus prints and reproductions.
About this Key West, Florida tour
You'll wonder how one mansion can weave together so many stories. Shipwrecks and hard-won prosperity. A genius on a quest to capture all of America's birds with his paintbrush. And a vision that, just in time, saved this Key West landmark from neglect and ruin. It was almost torn down to make way for a corner gas station.
In the 1840s, one of the richest men in the Florida Keys, Captain John Geiger, built his house on this prominent spot as a home for his large family and to flaunt his wealth. He made his fortune in shipwrecking, the dangerous and lucrative business that made Key West wealthy. When a ship wrecked in the perilous waters off the island, "wreckers" rushed to the sea to save the crew and salvage its cargo. Cargo was auctioned off for big profits, and successful wreck masters like Captain Geiger grew rich. Very rich.
An impoverished artist named Audubon also took to the water, sailing down the Mississippi with his art supplies. Eventually he arrived in Florida in the early 1830s and painted 22 birds of the Florida Keys. The tropical spot where Geiger's house now stands inspired his drawings. Still flourishing in the mansion's front garden, you'll see a rough-leaved Cordia tree, just like the one in Audubon's drawing of the white-crowned pigeon.
Audubon's art soon gained fame and eventually commanded fortunes. But the Geiger house wasn't so lucky. After four generations, the last descendent lived as a recluse in the crumbling mansion without water or electricity. Slated for demolition 1958, it was saved when the Wolfson family stepped up to purchase and restore it. Thanks to their vision, this gorgeous mansion and gardens endure. They're so much prettier than a gas station.
His birds soared high
Audubon's paintings are among the most desirable art ever created. His monumental work, Birds of America, contains 435 hand-colored prints of almost 500 species. On his hardscrabble journey through the American wilderness to create this book, Audubon could never have imaged its eventual worth. In 2010, a copy sold at Sotheby's for more than $10 million, the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction. A nice nest egg.
Please make your way to 205 Whitehead Street, Key West to meet your guide.
Closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Self guided tour with docents to interpret the setting.
To fully participate may require leisurely walking over primarily even surfaces. There may be a limited number of steps and some standing for extended periods of time. Tour is wheelchair accessible.
Walking, Cultural, Scenic
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated mild. To participate fully, you may be required to walk over primarily even surfaces at a leisurely pace. You may encounter a limited number of steps, cobblestones, or uneven surfaces, and you may have to stand for extended periods of time.
Suitable for all ages. Children under 6 years of age participate free of charge.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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