'Old Captain Geiger must not be overlooked, a master wrecker and the most skilled of pilots, in his later years he passed most of his time up in his "buffalo" - as he called his cupola - with his glass, watching passing vessels, or down along the beach, superintending his pet schooner, the "Nonpareil" in which he claimed to have beaten up Nassau harbor under jib alone "to show the Conchs what an American vessel could do."'
~ Jefferson Beale Browne, "Key West, the Old and the New," 1912
Introduction to Audubon House & Tropical Gardens
A visit to Audubon House and Tropical Gardens is a step back in time to the world of a maritime pilot and master wrecker in mid-19th century Key West.
The grand home that is now known as Audubon House was built by Captain John Huling Geiger in the 1840s as a residence for his family, who lived there for more than a century. Slated for destruction in 1958, the Geiger mansion was saved by the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization. The home’s large scale restoration was the first of its kind in Key West and sparked Key West’s restoration movement.
Today, the home and its furnishings reflect the elegance and comfortable living enjoyed by a wealthy family in Key West in an era when frequent shipwrecks on the offshore reef created a flourishing ship wrecking industry.
Visitors to Audubon House and Tropical Gardens can explore this fascinating heritage in a relaxed, educational environment. A visit will begin with an introduction to the home and its history provided by a knowledgeable guide. Guests then are free to roam the house and one-acre gardens at their leisure, viewing the reading panels that are available throughout the property.
Antique enthusiasts will appreciate the fine period furnishings on display throughout the historic home, while art lovers will enjoy viewing the extensive collection of original hand-painted lithographs of famed naturalist John James Audubon.
The lush gardens are among the best in the Florida Keys, and guests are invited to wander the paved brick pathways among orchids, bromeliads, rare tropical palms and crotons.
Audubon himself never visited the Geiger mansion; the home was built several years after Audubon visited the area to paint 22 local birds for his grand opus, The Birds of America. According to local folklore, he may have visited the property during his 1832 stay in Key West. Audubon’s painting of the white-crowned pigeon features a Geiger tree like the one found in the home’s front yard.
The Audubon Gallery of Fine Arts offers visitors a unique opportunity to purchase original hand-colored Audubon lithographs, modern reproductions, and other antique prints, while the Museum Store offers a wide selection of one-of-a-kind gift items and educational materials.
The house and gardens are open daily for tours. The gardens also are available for weddings and other events. Please enquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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