La Concha Hotel & Spa

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Discover La Concha Hotel & Spa, which has hosted famous authors like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.

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La Concha Hotel & Spa, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1991, dates back to 1926.

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La Concha Hotel & Spa is one of Historic Hotels of America’s earliest members, as its induction dates back to 1991. This spectacular hotel is also among Key West’s most historic, for it debuted nearly a century ago as the island’s first upscale holiday destination. During the 1920s, Key West was rapidly transforming into a prominent resort community thanks to the efforts of renowned railroad magnate and hotelier Henry B. Flagler. The island had spent years serving as a bustling commercial seaport until Flagler recognized that its inherit beauty would make for a desirable tourist attraction. He subsequently went to work connecting Key West to his own statewide railroad network—the historic Florida East Coast Railway. Hundreds of vacationers soon flooded into Key West, as well as countless real estate developers eager to make a profit. Among the many aspiring businessmen to travel to the area at the time was Carl Aubuchon, who immediately recognized the opportunity to open a grand luxury hotel in the heart of Key West. Forming a partnership with Jefferson B. Browne’s Florida Keys Realty Company, Aubuchon began constructing a beautiful six-story structure that brilliantly reflected the area’s rich Colonial Spanish heritage. The project itself proved to be a massive undertaking, costing Aubuchon and his team nearly a million dollars to complete. The money had nonetheless been put to good use, resulting in the creation of such outstanding details like marble floors, private baths, and a fully functional electric elevator. The new hotel even featured steel beams, a then-cutting-edge technology that helped make the building nearly fireproof.

Aubuchon finally opened his magnificent business as the “La Conca Hotel” at the beginning of 1926. The hotel quickly became one of the most popular attractions in downtown Key West, with its 100 original guestrooms attracting many visitors with their lavish amenities and sweeping ocean views. The rooms themselves went for three dollars a night, although guests could get a steak dinner if they spent an extra 30 cents. But the hotel’s prosperity was not destined to last, as the onset of the Great Depression significantly reduced demand for its accommodations. Then, in 1935, a devastating hurricane swept through Key West, which further depressed the local tourism industry. Fortunately, both La Concha Hotel and the island as a whole recovered swiftly in the years following World War II, arising once more as a cherished vacation hotspot. Many of America’s most illustrious personalities even returned to the island in great numbers, including author Ernest Hemingway and U.S. President Harry S. Truman. While the two men had their own homes on Key West, they nonetheless visited La Concha Hotel for cocktails. Tennessee Williams also visited the hotel around the same time, staying for long trips inside one of its guestrooms. Indeed, Williams lived at the hotel in 1946, using its tranquil atmosphere to help him write his masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire. Now known as “La Concha Hotel & Spa,” this historic tropical retreat continues to be among the best places to stay in Key West today.

  • About the Location +

    Part of the “Florida Keys” archipelago, Key West has been known to travelers for generations. Indeed, Spanish mariners first referred to the land mass as “Cayo Hueso” as early as the 16th century. While the exact origins of its original name remain a mystery, scholars today believe that it was an adaptation of a Native American phrase meaning “bone island.” The Spanish had supposedly evoked the moniker after uncovering a peculiar native graveyard during their initial explorations of the region. The island’s title stuck nonetheless, gradually becoming known as the more common “Key West” by the end of the 18th century. European sailors subsequently used the area’s deep-water port as a pitstop for rest and resupply, with pirates being among the most ubiquitous kind of visitor. But its tumultuous currents also caused a ton of shipwrecks, as many crews often found themselves marooned on the small island. As such, the island’s reputation deterred its long-term settlement, save for temporary fishing communities established by Cuban and Bahamian colonists. But the first permanent settlements finally appeared on Key West once the United States acquired the entire Floridian Peninsula in 1821. The individual responsible for initiating the process was a businessman named John Simonton, who personally purchased the island from Juan Pablo Salas for a sum of nearly $2,000. (Salas himself had reluctantly accepted the island as a gift a few years prior due to his service to the Spanish crown.) Recognizing the economic potential of Key West’s natural harbor, Simonton quickly began selling portions of the island to three other entrepreneurs that began creating the nucleus of what would become the eponymously named “Town of Key West.”

    At first, the new community grew slowly, featuring just a number of townhouses and storefronts. But over time, the island’s port attracted all kinds of maritime commerce from throughout the Atlantic world. Key West soon became a bustling center of trade, prompting the federal government to open an official customs house downtown. The island’s population exploded, too, with the town emerging as one of the most populated cities in all of Florida by the height of the Gilded Age. Most of its new residents hailed from across the Caribbean, giving rise to a unique cityscape that reflected a beautiful blend of Spanish and American design aesthetics. But Key West’s population had also grown due to the presence of a massive naval base stationed along its coast. To attract more investment, Simonton petitioned the U.S. Navy to develop a shipyard right next to his new town. Intrigued, the navy commissioned Lieutenant Matthew C. Perry—the future commodore responsible for opening Japan’s ports—to investigate Simonton’s island. The young officer then sailed his ship, the USS Shark, into Key West and liked what he saw. Reporting back favorably, the U.S. Navy immediately set about creating an imposing base. It evenutally emerged as one of the premiere naval bases in the country, with some even referring to it as the “Gibraltar of the West.” Perhaps the most famous even to involve the naval base was when the notorious USS Maine fatefully sailed from it to Havana in 1896. The armored cruiser inexplicably exploded shortly after its arrival in Cuba, prompting the start of the brief, yet momentous Spanish-American War.

    Key West’s fate changed again when prominent railroad magnate Henry B. Flagler decided to extend his Florida East Coast Railway into the Florida Keys. Recognizing the archipelago’s potential to serve as an upscale vacation destination, Flagler prioritized the new rail lines extension throughout the 1920s. HIs prediction about the island chain proved to be correct, as hundreds of excited vacationers quickly flocked to the islands. Dozens of real estate developers followed suit, who built a variety of ornate hotels and resorts. Key West acted as the epicenter for this transformation, becoming one of the most premiere resort communities in just a matter of years. In fact, the island even hosted its own airplane company—Pan American Airlines—just to accommodate all the vacationers. But the onset of the Great Depression hit Key West’s economy greatly, reducing tourism to historically low levels. Then, in 1935, the infamous Labor Day Hurricane destroyed much of what remained. Fortunately, the Florida Keys recovered swiftly in the years after World War II, with Key West in particular coming back stronger than ever. The island was even soon attracting some of the country’s most influential figures, including novelist Ernest Hemingway and playwright Tennessee Williams. President Harry S. Truman also adored Key West, who often spent whole winters inside what he called his “Little White House.” Today, Key West remains a luxurious holiday destination renowned for its amazing atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and extravagant accommodations. Truly few places in Florida are better for a memorable experience than Key West and the historic Florida Keys.


  • About the Architecture +

    In 1925, Carl Aubuchon decided to build a luxurious hotel in the heart of Key West. Aubuchon quickly formed a partnership with Jefferson B. Browne, who operated a land management business called the “Florida Keys Realty Company.” Browne himself possessed a ton of knowledge about the island, for he had been deeply involved with its community since the height of the Gilded Age. Aubuchon specifically oversaw the entire project, while Browne’s Florida Keys Realty Company provided the labor and financing. In fact, the Florida Keys Realty Company evenutally invested nearly a million dollars to both building and furnish Aubuchon’s new hotel. Meanwhile, Aubuchon hired the renowned architectural firm G. Lloyd Preacher and Company of Atlanta to spearhead the design. The firm proceeded to create a magnificent six-story structure that reflected the Spanish architectural aesthetics that defined Key West. It specifically showcased the colonial motifs of neighboring Cuba, whose inhabitants had long traveled to the island for years. Nevertheless, the G. Lloyd Preacher and Company subsequently installed a variety of then-contemporary architectural details into the building, including marble floors, private baths, and an electrical elevator. The firm had even used steel beams to create the structure’s skeleton as a means of making it nearly fireproof.

    Also known as “Spanish Eclectic,” Spanish Colonial Revival architecture itself is a representation of themes typically seen in early Spanish colonial settlements across the Americas. Original Spanish colonial architecture borrowed its design principles from Moorish, Renaissance, and Byzantine forms, which made it incredibly decorative and ornate. The general layout of those structures called for a central courtyard, as well as thick stucco walls that could endure Latin America’s diverse climate. Among the most recognizable features within those colonial buildings involved heavy carved doors, spiraled columns, and gabled red-tile roofs. Architect Bertram Goodhue was the first to widely popularize Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, spawning a movement to incorporate the style more broadly in American culture at the beginning of the 20th century. Goodhue received a platform for his designs at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, in which Spanish Colonial architecture was exposed to a national audience for the first time. His push to preserve the form led to a revivalist movement that saw widespread use of Spanish Colonial architecture throughout the country, specifically in California and Florida. Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture reached its zenith during the early 1930s, although a few American businesspeople continued to embrace the form well into the late 20th century. 


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Ernest Hemingway, author known for writing such books like A Farwell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea.  

    Tennessee Williams, playwright known for writing such productions like The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Streetcar Named Desire.

    Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1945 – 1953)


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