Key West Saves an 1880s-Era Diesel Plant from Demolition
Preservationists to the rescue.
A dilapidated diesel plant whose tower has loomed over Key West since the mid-1800s is getting a new life as a museum thanks to a group of preservationists.
Keys Energy built the diesel plant in the 1880s, but it ceased operations in the 1970s and has sat, empty and crumbling in Bahama Village ever since. Since they were not going to use the plant again, Keys Energy offered it for free to the city and residents took a vote and approved the transfer of the property in 2016, according to local news outlet, Konklife.com. It was a mixed blessing, though. The plant was truly falling apart and the city decided much of the building was too unsafe to leave standing and ordered it demolished.
However, residents didn’t want to lose this historic part of Bahama Village, and asked the city to try and preserve the structure and preserve it for future generations. Now, a year after most of the plant was ordered demolished by the city, the Key West Art and Historical Society (KWAHS) has been given the chance to re-develop the former plant.
According to the Miami Herald, the Keys Energy Plant will be turned into an interactive museum that features a microbrewery and restaurant. The museum will be an homage to the historic neighborhood of Bahama Village, offering insight into the history of the location and the building. The new museum will give the community a new destination to replace the crumbling structure that loomed over the galleries, shops, restaurants, and homes that make up the neighborhood. It will also be an added attraction for visitors and locals making use of the city’s new Truman Waterfront Park, which sits next door.
The nonprofit is getting to work right away, but they have a long and expensive road ahead. “There’s a ton of work that has to be done,” Michael Gieda, executive director of KWAHS, told the Miami Herald. “It’s been sitting vacant for decades.” They estimate transforming the building from a graffiti-coated shell to a cultural hotspot will cost between $10 million and $15 million.
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Luckily, KWAHS are pros at holding on to Key West’s history. For the last 65 years, they have worked to preserve the history of the Florida Keys and are now stewards of four landmarks on the island, the Tennessee Williams Museum, the Custom House, Fort East Martello, and the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters.