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The Patterson-Baldwin House

CIRCA 1838

Historic Marker 11 is located at 336 Duval on the corner of Eaton and Duval Streets.The Oldest Schoolhouse, also known as the Patterson-Baldwin House, was built in 1847 and is one of the oldest surviving structures in Key West. The building started as a modest one and a half story cottage with a front and side porch. It now has elements of Classical Revival and Bahamian architecture. The exterior features a metal shingle roof, a two-story gallery, hand-sawn balustrades and elongated windows with shutters. The school bell hanging above the second story porch is a clue to the building's original use. The building was moved to its current location in 1847 when Alexander Patterson, once the Mayor of Key West, purchased it. The move occurred in 1846, after a devastating hurricane damaged or destroyed most of the buildings in the city. After the storm, building materials and skilled carpenters were in scarce supply and many surviving structures like this were relocated to the surrounding streets. Mr. and Mrs. William Pinkney lived in the house where his sister, Madame Passaloque began the island's first schoolhouse and conducted classes until 1860. In opening a school, Madame Passaloque was ahead of her time since Florida's public school system was not organized until the 1870's. In 1860, John P. Baldwin, who claimed to be a member of an aristocratic British family, purchased the property. His wife was a music teacher and their three daughters were schoolteachers. The Baldwins moved to the Bahamas during the Civil War returning at the war's end. In 1867, they enlarged the cottage with the two-story addition at the front of the lot. The building remained in the Baldwin family for 102 years. Joan and Edward B. Knight purchased the property in 1962. At that time, a fire had heavily damaged the schoolhouse portion of the building and the main structure had fallen into a sad state of disrepair.In order to visually enthuse citizens and visitors with the idea of purchasing and refurbishing Key West's buildings, Mr. Knight completely restored the façade and landscaped the front of the building while leaving the Eaton Street side boarded up and strewn with waist-high weeds. He then erected a large sign that read the "Before and After House."Knight's improvement campaign gained wide attention when the National Trust for the Preservation of Historic Homes published photos of the house to inspire other locations to do the same.Over the years, the Knights have painstakingly restored the property and their efforts have served as a catalyst for the Key West Historic Preservation program.If you are interested in more information about the beginning of our preservation movement check Historic Marker number 10.