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The Southernmost House

CIRCA 1897

Historic Marker number eight is located at 1400 Duval Street at the corner of Duval and South Streets.Judge Vinning Harris built the Southernmost House in 1897. Harris's wife, Florida Curry, was the youngest daughter of William Curry, Florida's first millionaire. The Curry family were prolific builders with eight mansions in the Historic District to their credit.This impressive Queen Anne Victorian style house was designed as a one-bedroom mansion. What it lacked in bedrooms it more than made up for with its open water views, elegant public rooms, two story balconies, and large stained glass windows to catch the ocean breezes.Electricity was a novelty and a luxury in the 1890's. Mrs. Harris wanted the best and was able to engage Thomas Edison to oversee the electrical design and installation for the house.The Harrises were prominent citizens at the turn of the century and had invested in Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad to Key West. They often entertained him at the mansion during the construction of what is thought to be one of the transportation engineering feats of the day.During the Prohibition period from 1919-1933 the mansion served as a "speakeasy." The first floor was a restaurant; the second floor was used for casino gambling and the third floor for "socializing." During this period, celebrities and notorious gangsters who were en route to Havana visited the mansion.In the 1940's the mansion was operated as a night club called "Café Cayo Hueso," hosting such notables as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Louis Armstrong, and Charles Lindbergh.In 1949 the mansion was completely renovated for use as a private residence. Since then many dignitaries and heads of state have been welcomed at the mansion. Among these are King Juan Carlos of Spain and five American Presidents: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.