Built by Don Luis Martinez as a hurricane proof cigar factory after the hurricane of 1909. It was the home of Flor de Luis Martinez, the only remaining Key West cigar brand still in production. Tampaâ€™s Santaella Company produced cigars here from 1919-1935. The building is only one of three masonry cigar factories still remaining in what was once the cigar capital of the United States.
This is the second Gato cigar factory built on this site. The first structure was a wooden factory built in 1884 and destroyed by fire in 1915. The second factory was built as a hurricane and fire proof structure in 1920. It features large windows and a central open-air courtyard to capture the best light to select premium tobacco leaves. The factory employed 500 cigar artisans and produced sixty thousand hand rolled cigars in 1890. ï»¿
Edward H. Gato created one of the first successful industrial communities in the US. By building 40 cigar makers cottages around his cigar factory Gato attracted the most talented workers. The homes were simple two room wooden structures, with a porch facing the street and an outhouse in back. Gato supported the entrepreneurial and community spirit of his workers, encouraging them to start businesses of their own, ranging from groceries and saloons to confectionary shops and private schools.
This park was part of a community of 40 cigar makersâ€™ cottages surrounding the Gato Cigar Factory. The structure at the rear of the property is a representation of the cottage that stood here in 1897. The cigar sculpture is believed to be the largest cigar of its type and is a monument to the men and women who made Key West the â€œcigar capital of the worldâ€ in the 1890â€™s.
The home of Cuban emigre Arturo Fuente Sr. from 1906-1912. He apprenticed cigar rolling in the A.E. Baez factory and honed his skills at the E.H. Gato Cigar Factory. From humble beginnings in Cuba to freedom in Key West he was able to build successful cigar factories in Ybor City, Florida and the Dominican Republic. The Fuenteâ€™s are the largest cigar producing family in the world.