This majestic building housed such an incredible city-changing past. A portion of the historical marker outside the factory reads as follows: “The Gato cigar factory was constructed by Eduardo H. Gato in 1916. This Neo-classical revival, poured concrete structure with a large central courtyard was constructed after an earlier wood framed factory on this site had burned. It was also one of the earliest American integrated workplaces where Cubans, Africans and Bahamian-Americans, and whites worked side by side. Small cottages were built near the factory to house workers, and became an area known as Gatoville. The cigar industry was critical to Key West’s economy just before the 20th century but declined in the early 1900’s.”
I found an awesome historic photo (shown below) of Gatoville’s small cottages, how cool is that! Since its closing, it has been an army barracks, mess hall & Navy commissary. Upon the Navy’s departure it was purchased by Monroe County who still occupies it today and contains a small Cigar museum that will be on my “To Do List” upon my next visit. Shown below is also a plaque that’s mounted beside one of the front doors stating its historic relevance by then Governor Jeb Bush.
There’s no doubt that this man, factory & industry transformed this island community forever. There are street names, parks and other establishments that take advantage of their staying name power. Come by and enjoy this majestic landmark for FREE as it stood in its glory days.