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The Gato Village Pocket Park

CIRCA 2008

Historic Marker 20 is located at 616 Louisa Street. You may be wondering what a "pocket" park is. It simply means a small green space that has been reserved for public enjoyment.This park has a special history as it was part of a unique community of employee housing built by Eduardo Gato in the 1880's. Gato Village, also known as Gatoville or Barrio Gato, consisted of 40 cigar makers' cottages that were built around the Gato Cigar Factory on Simonton Street (Historic Marker 17). Key West was at the highpoint of its cigar manufacturing and there was a shortage of both skilled cigar makers and housing. Eduardo built the community to attract the best cigar artisans to his factory. Unlike many of the company housing springing up throughout the country during the industrial age, Gatoville encouraged entrepreneurial endeavors. The community had its own bakery, laundry, billiards hall, grocery and ice cream shop.The structure at the back of the park is a representation of the facade of the cigar maker's cottage built on this lot in 1897. The occupants were Fernando and Serafina Gato. Fernando was a cigar maker at the factory. Fernando and Serafina raised their daughter, Mary Gato, in the cottage and, before they moved out, saw Mary wed Joe Madiedo. Joe had moved to Key West as a young man. Many of his family were cigar makers in Tampa.Based on Joe Madiedo's memories of the years he spent at the cottage, Fernando's granddaughter, Patricia Gato Madiedo, and her husband, Bruce Neff were able to build the cottage facade and donate it to the City of Key West.The park is also home of the World's largest cigar sculpture donated by the Fuente family, Bruce Neff, and Patricia Madiedo. Arturo Fuente escaped the aftermath of the Cuban revolution in 1902. He spent the next 6 years living near Gato Village learning the art of rolling cigars. He moved to Tampa and started his own small cigar factory. Today his family owns and operates the largest cigar factory in the world based in the Dominican Republic.