photos by Barry Fitzgerald & VHKW
Viva on Duval vacation rental is truly a home of fine distinction, at long last this splendid piece of Key West - Cuban architectural history lives again! Lovingly reclaimed and painstakingly restored by the heirs of the Valdes family who originally built this prominent Key West home, it now stands once again gorgeous and proud... close to the ocean with a seafarers view. Displaying the most romantic elements of neoclassicism design this inspired home has a special fairy-tale charm. A triangular pediment, decidedly symmetrical wrap-around porches with tall round columns, and a curvaceous look-over widow’s walk are reminiscent of the planked decks and elegant bow sprits of classic wooden schooners that one time freely sailed the 90 mile passage between Key West and Cuba.
A Brief History: This elegant home is strongly tied to the Cuban heritage of Key West, and has special historic significance to our island as it has managed to remain with the family heirs of the original owners. Built in 1935 as the main residence for then City of Key West Commissioner Jose Valdes and his dear wife Anna (whose nick name was "Viva"), the civic, business and architectural contributions of the eminent Valdes family are as varied as they are significant to our island. Their influence goes back to 1890 when the family moved from Cuba to Key West to set up a grocery store in the days when Key West was the largest city in Florida with a booming trade economy based on the sponge market and Cuban cigar making. During the ensuing 100 + years the Valdes family put themselves on the map with a variety of accomplishments including the first concrete building ever to be built on Key West (to house the largest bakery), and the original down town Grey Hound bus station. The Valdes family also owned and operated eateries in the 1920s that included the popular Valdes Cafe at 1211 Duval St. (now it houses The Banana Cafe), and Ramons, a well loved Spanish American restaurant at 615 Duval St. (now it houses Antonia’s).
Fast forward to 2007: We find the present day Valdes family living in Key West and focusing their efforts on the construction and renovation of Key West houses. They are given full credit for the remarkable re-creation of this treasured family home they call "Viva On Duval." A true labor of love, they have named this home for their beloved Grandmother Anna whom they all called "Viva." Translated to English, "Viva" means "For Life" and they fondly recall how as playing children they would run together to their grandmother’s elegant home shouting with glee, "Let’s go to Viva."
This home of fine distinction is now a wonderful treasure that reminds us of romantic days of opulence when Key West and Cuba had both a business and brotherhood bond fueled by the seafaring trades throughout the Caribbean. Today this exquisite private home offers many "5- Star Resort Quality Amenities generally reserved for an exclusive resort" and is now available for rent as a private single-family residence offering a rare and unique opportunity to intimately live in a part of the lost-in-time landscape of Key West architectural history.
INTERIOR DESIGN AND LAYOUT: Throughout the restorations and renovations the interior of this home has, for the most part retained its authentic original layout. Below is detailed description by floor.
DOWNSTAIRS: An impressive entrance hall with polished hard wood floors makes a grand statement when you first enter the front door of the home. The first architectural feature you notice is the perfectly restored original wooden banister staircase that seems to mysteriously wind to the second floor. The Stately rooms with 12-foot ceilings line both sides of the house.
DOWNSTAIRS right side - The front door entrance is set to the right of the house as you face it, and the entrance hall grows into a long and wide sitting room and leading straight ahead to a spacious luxury bathroom. The full bathroom is divided into two rooms with a bathing room and a commode room. The bathing room features a gorgeous double-wide sink vanity and oversized shower. Ceramic sink bowls elegantly sit atop the expansive tiled vanity, and the large shower is state-of-the art with frameless glass doors and a shower bench. All bathroom fixtures are high-end chrome. The commode is neatly tucked in the back in a private commode room.
The right side of the downstairs also houses a thoughtfully designed laundry center. Ample room has been reserved for not only the washer / dryer, but a folding and ironing station. This is a rare find in any house in the tropics. This feature is ideal for the fashion conscious guest or persons looking for a luxury accommodation with enough space to iron special apparel for an even such as a wedding.
DOWNSTAIRS left side - To the left of the grand entrance hall is the large luxurious living / dining room. This room is appointed with upscale classic style furnishings, tropical art work, a 50 inch screen plasma TV, with an added feature of a pull out sleeper sofa. Elegant ceiling light fixtures are carefully chosen crystal chandeliers like the ones that were traditionally found in the opulent manors of Havana.
The renovation of the home also added a brand new custom built kitchen with the latest modern standards. By opening up the kitchen wall to the dining / living area, there is now a grand spacious and beautiful living space. The new kitchen offers all the amenities you would expect in a modern luxury home of this quality. Complete with custom tile work, granite counter tops, and top-of-the-line appliances this luxurious kitchen has a dual level preparation counter and dining bar counter. The wooden dining table is set between the living room and kitchen beside the kitchen bar counter for easy serving and entertaining.
Outside in the back - Entrance to the private back yard is found on the back wall of the kitchen where a wooden door leads to the private swimming pool with landscaped yard and tiled pool deck. There is plenty of seating for sunning and lounging.
UPSTAIRS: A classic feature of grand historic Key West homes is the gorgeous custom staircase, each one unique in its own right. The staircase in this home lends to its fairy-tale charm as the grand wooden banister staircase gracefully winds upstairs to the left and leads you to the center of the 2nd floor. The railing at the landing has an open view on both sides of the entry room below, and once you reach the second floor the spacious atrium-style hallway feels like a room in-and-of-itself with polished wooden floors and chandelier light fixtures. A pretty writing desk is thoughtfully placed towards the front of the hallway, and towards the back of the hall an exterior door leads to the second floor wrap around porch and widows walk.
UPSTAIRS left side - During the renovation of the home the owners made an effort to preserve the original floor plan of each bedroom as their grandfather had originally designed it. Each bedroom is spacious, grand, and luxuriously furnished and appointed (complete with wall mounted flat screen TV), and each can be regarded as a stately master bedroom in its own right.
As you stand at the top of the stairs the bedrooms and bath room are off the hall in a circular pattern. To the left towards the front of the house the 1st bedroom is the stately green room furnished with a beautiful carved exotic wooden king-size poster bed, classic patterned roman shade window coverings and red-tipped crystal chandelier. The 2nd bedroom on the left, towards the back of the house, is fit for a princess. This romantic blue and white room is elegantly furnished with a brilliant white king-size pencil-style poster bed, pretty blue silk slipper chair, white cloth roman shades and delicate blue tipped crystal chandelier.
UPSTAIRS Porch and Verandah: Moving around to the middle of the second floor, the entry hall leads to the back door that takes you to the deep verandah porch that rests on the tall columns below and wraps all the way around to the front of the house. The grand verandah is one of most unique and fabulous features of this home. At the back you have a great view of the private pool and grounds below. As you walk around the south side of the house you get a view of the street below and as you walk to the front you catch the ocean breeze and a seafarer’s view of the island near its most southern end of the United States. An intimate bar table, complete with sun umbrella, has been thoughtfully placed on the "widows walk" so you can sit and gaze toward the ocean and watch the sites below. There is also a double wide hammock for 2nd floor outside lounging and napping.
UPSTAIRS right side - As you move past the entry hall the 3rd bedroom is situated towards the back-right corner of the house. This room is painted in okra (soft golden-yellow) and is set with a queen size platform bed, soft cloth roman shades and delightful bedroom table and two chairs. This room is topped with a tropical ceiling fan with lights.
Back in the hall as you move to the right is the large luxury European style bathroom. Divided into two rooms there is a separate commode room and bathing room. By setting the bathroom as two separate rooms it services all three bedrooms very efficiently. The large luxurious bathing room offers a gorgeous wood carved bureau vanity sink complete with spacious granite counter top and double sinks. The bathing room also has a built in Jacuzzi bath tub, a bidet, and a double size frameless glass shower. The large commode room opens to the hallway and is conveniently accessible to all three bedrooms.
GROUNDS: Staying true to the original 1930s design of the home, the front yard is planted with neatly trimmed green lawn outlined with tropical foliage. The lawn is the perfect stage to set off the tall white round porch columns. The north side of the house has a long driveway that offers off-street parking for up to two standard sized vehicles.
The back yard is fully fenced with a tall white picket fence. The original back yard gave way to a nice size swimming pool and large tiled deck to meet modern day standards for indoor-out door luxury living. A door from the pool deck to the kitchen makes the ideal set up for private entertaining pool side. A wide variety of beautiful palm trees, bougainvillea, and tropical foliage create a romantic tropical setting. The front of the home has stunning curb appeal with large curving front porches on the first floor and verandah on the second floor with a seafarer’s view of the ocean.
Bedding Summary: Second floor - 2 king size beds, 1 queen size bed. All bedrooms are on the 2nd floor, all three bedrooms serve as suites. Green Room - king size bed; Blue Room - king size bed; Okra room - queen size bed. First Floor: 1 queen sleeper sofa in the living room.
Amenities: Upscale renovation and luxury furnishings. Swimming pool, large tiled deck, tropical gardens, expansive porches, and privacy fences. Fully equipped kitchen, central a/c, telephone, color cable TV, stereo, washer / dryer. Linens and towels are provided. Catering can be arranged. Maid service can be scheduled.
Activities: Elegant Upper Duval St. - Close to the Southern Most Point of the United States - you can see South Beach from the upstairs verandah. Cafe neighborhood features art galleries, wonderful eateries and internationally famous fine restaurants, coffee house, fine gift and clothing stores, Grand Vin wine tasting, home made ice cream. Here you start at the top of Duval St. near the Atlantic Ocean and can take the 20 min stroll to the Gulf of Mexico (remember it takes 3 to 4 Key West streets to equal the distance of a typical city block). Sailing, boating, diving, museums, nightlife.
Area: Upper Duval or ‘Uptown Key West’ has evolved into the “elegant end of Duval” and offers an exceptional variety of restaurants, beautiful boutiques, and art galleries. Close enough to South Beach that you can see it from the porch and the Southernmost Point of the United States is just around the corner. Walk to the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration in 15 to 20 minutes.
Restrictions: Smoke free house. Only well behaved children. Smoking permitted outside only. Absolutely no pets please.
Notes: This property is ideal for professionals, executives, and families who have discerning tastes looking for a spacious and luxurious accommodation that is truly authentic, with 5-Star Quality resort amenities.
Today there are only a few such historic estate homes that are available for rent as private, single-family residences. Most homes of this type have been made over into apartments or bed and breakfast accommodations.