Historic Bahama House

The first settlers in Key West were from the Bahamas and began arriving after Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819. John Bartlum a ship’s captain at only 18 years of age was a descendant of a European loyalist family. His Bahama House, at 730 Eaton Street is one of the two Bahamian-built houses in town. The 3-story 3000-square-foot home was built in the early 1800’s in the Bahamian town of Green Turtle Cay. The house was dismantled piece-by-piece in 1847 and shipped to Key West and reconstructed on the current site.

Why would anyone build a home in another country then tear it down and ship it to Key West? Here’s why!  Because Key West was an important shipwrecking town like Green Turtle Cay many people were prompted to go there. In 1846 a strong hurricane damaged many homes in Key West causing a critical building materials shortage. Undaunted by the news John Bartlum a prominent Green Turtle resident dismantled his new home board-by-board and brought them over to Key West for re-assembly. The Bartlum home “Bahama House” still stands today providing an excellent example of a Bahamian built home. Green Turtle Cay lost one of its most prominent shipbuilders in John Bartlum, however, he did not break all ties with the Bahamas continuing trade with Nassau. This unique structure, if you look closely has two roofs that form a valley between both helping to collect rainwater in a time when there were no water towers. Captain John Bartlum lived from 1814 – 1871 and is buried in the historic Key West Cemetery.

His home today is a Bed & Breakfast welcoming unsuspecting tourists year round to its prior history and lure. Located only one block from “pedestrian central” Duval Street, this treasured relic sits proudly among a handful of homes distinguished as Key West’s best! I bet my mother, who played here as a child, never once pondered the historical significance as she and her girlfriends played hide-and-seek in the house and attic! 🙂

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Historic Bahama House

  1. Audrey Kramer

    Art, I am a descendant of the Bartlums. My mother was a Geraldine A. Bartlum. Her father was George C. Bartlum grandson of John Bartlum the shipbuilder and original owner of of the Bahama House. I have only seen the house once. But my mother too used to visit relatives there. May I ask your mother’s maiden name?

  2. Anne

    I’m related to descendants from Key West and Green Turtle Cay. Family names were Sawyer, Curry, and more recently Yates.

  3. michaeldean

    i am doing research on a sea captain daniel dean who would have sailed between key west and abaco ,eleuthera ,cat island and andros in the bahamas—-would appreciate any info anyone has–

  4. Anne Yates Burst

    My Grandmother, Jenny Roberts, lived at 816 Eaton Street and was sister to Ethelyn Roberts Sawyer who lived with her family in the Bahama house half a block away. When I was a girl, in 1940 on, my sister June and I played with Ethelyn’s granddaughter, Jacquelyn Duane, in the attic of that house all the time, dress-ups in the old clothes and dolls. I have written a novel, THE VIEW FROM THE WIDOW’S WALK, and it tells of all the things that were up in that space. You can get it on Amazon. We also played hopscotch by the hour in the side yard in the shade of a huge orchid tree. At the time it was completely unpainted, a beautiful silver gray. Due to the depression, no one could afford to paint their houses. I am now 80 so I have old memories of the island city, Key West. The other Bahama house is right next door.ay

    • Hello Anne, I’m sitting with my mother right now and she of course knows you… in fact, you are still friends staying in touch with each other to this day. My mother is Betty Filer Boza.

  5. Jim Walker

    Captain Bartlum is a relative on my Mother,Mary Louisa Bartlum’s, side. We visited the house many times when I was a child and more recently and were always treated very hospitably by the various owners on those occasions. My mother, now age 87, remembers the house fondly as do I. We both still live in Florida as do my children and grandson.

  6. Thanks for preserving the piece of history! Like most Lowes in the Bahamas, Captain John Bartlum’s wife, Sarah Lowe, and I descend from patriarch Captain Gideon Lowe.

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