The Key West Museum of Art and History is also popularly known as Custom House. The imposing structure is a classic example of Romanesque architecture, built in 1891. This type of architecture was the standard building style at the end of the nineteenth century. The Key West Museum of Art and History is under the management of the Key West Art & Historical Society (KWAHS). The Land Acquisition Advisory Council of the state of Florida bought the building when it was not in use for about 20 years, when the Navy stopped using it in the 1970s and leased the Custom House building to KWAHS to function as a museum.
The Custom House is situated at 281 Front Street, Key West, near the U.S. Naval base. Several historical events have occurred in this magnificent building, the major one being the inquiry in 1898 into the sinking of the ship, USS Maine in the harbor of Havana. The Navy took over the building in 1932 and made it the headquarters of the Navy for this Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean operations, but stopped using it in the 1970s.
The Key West Art & Historical Society has faithfully restored the ‘Old 91’ Custom House and has transformed it as the Key West Museum of Art & History. The building is not only the headquarters of KWAHS at present but also an award-winning museum. The two floors of the museum bring to life the two centuries of people, events, art, and history of the building and the island. The entry fee for this museum is $7 for adults, $5 for children above age 6, seniors above age 62, locals with ID, and AAA travelers, and free for children below age 6 and members of KWAHS. Except for Christmas, the museum is open daily between 9-30 am and 4-30 pm.
The museum starts with a small gift shot at the entrance and the polished wood interior impresses all visitors to the museum. The first floor of the museum contains a small art section. The second floor offers details about the history of the museum and the island. The museum also presents two video presentations and one audio presentation about the construction of the first railroad to Key West, which tourists should never miss.