The Florida Keys & Key West

Florida Keys News

Marathon's Adderley House Offers Intriguing Historical Experience

The Adderley House at Marathon's Crane Point Museum and Nature Center offers an enhanced experience to visitors following the mid-July completion of a $118,000 renovation. Once home to an early 20th-century Bahamian sponge fisherman's family, the house is the Florida Keys' oldest outside of Key West.

Before its renovation, the house had weathered some 110 years in the Keys' subtropical climate. It was built between 1904 and 1906 by immigrant George Adderley, who arrived in 1890 from the Bahamian island of New Providence at the age of 20.

Adderley, his wife Olivia and their children survived by making charcoal from buttonwood trees and selling sponges scooped out of the aquamarine bay bottom with a three-pronged iron hook. Adderley sold his dried sponges in Key West at daily auctions held on the town's rowdy waterfront docks.

"As the first official residents of Adderley Town, George and Olivia left their mark on the Keys," said Charlotte Quinn, chief operations officer of the Florida Keys Land & Sea Trust Inc., which oversees Crane Point Museum and Nature Center.

The home anchored the once-lively Adderley Town community of 10 houses built by other Bahamians, who discovered the slightly elevated patch of land known as a tropical hardwood hammock.

Those homes no longer stand. But exotic tropical hardwood trees such as the lignumvitae, known for its strong and durable wood, still thrive in the 63-acre destination that offers a glimpse into the lives of early African-American settlers in the Keys.

"The restored house brings history to life in Adderley Town," said Quinn of the renovation that was made possible by funding from the Florida Department of State's Division of Historic Resources and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

Inside the house, new signage provides detailed historical information. There's also a new tin roof above the community kitchen. Outside elements include a new fire pit.

Later this year, visitors will be able to enjoy monthly historical re-enactments with walks through Crane Point's hammock, evening bonfires and stories, performances by "the Adderleys" and refreshments. The events will offer insights into the hard-scrabble life of Adderley Town, where settlers existed on fresh fish, conch and other seafood.

Conch, for example, was dried, tied into a bunch and hung in a cool place where it would keep for months and was called "hurricane ham."

George Adderley and the community's men purchased staples in Key West, where they journeyed on 20-foot, single-masted sailboats to sell wares such as sponges, charcoal and produce.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, the Adderley House is a 30-foot by 21-foot concrete rectangle, with centered front and back doors that are positioned directly across from each other. Eight windows provide cross-ventilation.

The house has historical significance as the only standing structure in Florida made of "tabby" construction. Tabby concrete was made by burning oyster shells to create lime, which was mixed with water, sand, ash and broken oyster shells.

Tabby was used as a substitute for bricks, which were rare and expensive in the Florida Keys because of an absence of local clay. The concrete was protected with a coating of plaster or stucco known as "oyster shell mortar."

Crane Point also features the Museum of Natural History, where parents and children can learn about the life cycle of sea turtles and discover how Native Americans forged a living from the sea.

Visitors can explore 2.5 miles of scenic trails and wooden walkways that crisscross the hammock. Trolley tours of the botanical gardens and historic site can be arranged.

Other attractions include a gift shop and butterfly and flight habitat center. Also on-site is the Marathon Wild Bird Center where injured cormorants, egrets, pelicans and other birds are treated and rehabilitated.

Crane Point and the Adderley House are located at 5550 Overseas Highway, mile marker 50.5 bayside. Admission is $14.95 per adult including tax, $12.95 for military members and seniors 62 and older, and $9.95 for children 4 and older. Children under 4 are admitted free. The facility closes annually during the month of September.

For more information, contact cranepoint.net or call 305-743-9100.

The Adderley house has weathered some 110 years in the Keys' subtropical climate.

The Adderley house has weathered some 110 years in the Keys' subtropical climate.

The home anchored the once-lively Adderley Town community of 10 houses built by other Bahamians, who discovered the slightly elevated patch of land known as a tropical hardwood hammock.

The home anchored the once-lively Adderley Town community of 10 houses built by other Bahamians, who discovered the slightly elevated patch of land known as a tropical hardwood hammock.

The house has historical significance as the only standing structure in Florida made of "tabby" construction. Tabby concrete was made by burning oyster shells to create lime, which was mixed with water, sand, ash and broken oyster shells.

The house has historical significance as the only standing structure in Florida made of "tabby" construction. Tabby concrete was made by burning oyster shells to create lime, which was mixed with water, sand, ash and broken oyster shells.

Exotic tropical hardwood trees such as the lignumvitae, known for its strong and durable wood, still thrive in the 63-acre destination.

Exotic tropical hardwood trees such as the lignumvitae, known for its strong and durable wood, still thrive in the 63-acre destination.

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