At its peak in the 1890â€™s Key West had 200 cigar factories and 2085 cigar rollers producing one hundred million hand rolled cigars a year. A skilled cigar roller could roll 300 cigars a day or nearly ninety thousand cigars a year. The success of the cigar industry contributed to Key West being the largest and wealthiest city in the State of Florida from the Civil War until the turn of the 20th century.
By the end of 1822, mere months after the first US flag was planted in Key West, Commodore David Porter was sent to take charge. Porter commanded the West Indian Squadron nicknamed the â€œMosquito Fleetâ€. Porter was ordered to end the reign of â€œThe Brethren of the Coast,â€ the original pirates of the Caribbean. With the help of the Sea Gull, the first steam powered ship in the US Navy, Porterâ€™s efforts are credited with eliminating piracy in the Caribbean.
Built by Benjamin Curry Jr., the brother of Floridaâ€™s first millionaire. The property has remained in the family for well over a century. His grandson, Benjamin Curry Moreno was a city engineer responsible for developing Key Westâ€™s modern roads and sidewalks. His daughter Betty married Toby Bruce, a man brought to Key West by Ernest Hemingway. Toby was often referred to as Hemingwayâ€™s â€œman Fridayâ€ and remained friends with the Hemingways for decades. Toby was a pall bearer at Ernestâ€™s funeral.
Built as part of a Methodist educational complex at Hargrove Seminary, Bruce Hall featured a 600 seat auditorium with a roof garden. It served as part of the United States Navy Hospital during World War I through World War II. After 40 years of providing educational and health services Hargrove Seminary was demolished with the exception of Bruce Hall. The hall began its next life as the Navy commissary and is currently part of the Monroe County school system.
This is the third and largest cigar factory owned and operated by cigar manufacturer Ferdinand Hirsch. Hirsch originally came to Key West from New York and started producing cigars in 1892 during Key Westâ€™s cigar boom. Hirsch owned this factory for a mere four years before he died. After Hirsch passed away six other cigar manufacturers, including E.H. Gato, occupied his former factory, producing cigars that were considered to be the best in the world.