Most everyone has seen at least one of these yet few have any idea what they’re called. It’s called a Widow’s Walk, a railed rooftop platform frequently found on 19th century North American homes. A popular romantic myth holds that the platform was used to observe vessels at sea. 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 the mariners, leaving the women widows.
Widow’s walks are in fact a standard decorative feature very popular during the height of the Age of Sail in many North American coastal communities. Pictured are six widow walks on 4 land-based homes, 1 boat house & 1 business all within a block or two overlooking the ocean. If you look closely, you can see that one of them below built for the Curry Mansion has a female manikin complete with spyglass atop their walk portraying a wife looking for her husbands return from the sea. (to be honest, the manikin looks a lot like Micheal Jackson!) 🙂
I’ve personally found approximately 18 of these around Key West with the best visible examples posted for your enjoyment. So the next time you see one of these rooftop adornments you can impress your friends by correctly naming it “Widow’s Walk” along with an accurate explanation of their purpose.