Posted: Mar 25, 2017
The Ceramic Star is the Gold Star of Historic Renovations
The Ceramic Star of the HFKF

For many property owners in Key West and the Florida Keys, purchasing a property is merely Objective 1 in a multi-objective Game Plan that leads to the long-term Goal of having a beautifully personalized home or business in paradise. This personalization is clearly a love affair with location, history, architecture, space, color, light and air.  To this end, the Florida Keys is blessed with a wide selection of architects, designers and builders whose protractors, computer-aided design software and hammers and nails are the artistic tools that create these personalized properties. In recognition of these treasures, large and small, residential and commercial, the Historic Florida Keys Foundation (HFKF) annually acknowledges, grants and rewards the preservation, restoration, rehabilization or construction of new properties throughout Monroe County.  Here's how -

In the Beginning ...


The Florida legislature established the Historic Key West Preservation Board as a branch and office in the State government in 1972.  As the duties expanded to all of Monroe County, it was renamed the Historic Florida Keys Preservation Board. The Historic Florida Keys Foundation (HFKF) incorporated as a direct-support organization to the Preservation Board by 1991.  In 1997 the Legislature abolished the State branch and office with the HFKF taking over the duties of preservation.


Today, the Historic Florida Keys Foundation is located, appropriately enough, in the Old City Hall in Key West, Fl.  The HFKF is governed by an 11-member Board of Directors with members located in Tavernier, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West.


The Executive Director of the HFKF Board of Directors is the former City of Key West Preservation Planner, Diane Silvia.

Old City Hall Key West

The preservation of historic structures; commercial, residential, ex-government buildings, bridges, etc., is no easy task.  Neither has it been a long lived effort as only over the past 50 years has preservation of these structures and the history they contain and represent been a desired and encouraged practice.


In 1963, the Florida legislature granted Key West the authority to create an architectural review board. By 1986 this board had evolved to and was renamed the Historic Architecture Review Commission (HARC).  HARC continues to this day.  It acts as guide and referee for the renovation and restoration of many structures in and around the historic district of (predominantly) Old Town Key West.

Oldest House Key West


The Historic Florida Keys Foundation has two primary roles.  First; searching for and securing Grant Awards for the three properties under its wing; The Armory, Old City Hall and the Oldest House, each in Key West.. On occasion the HFKF will also secure grants for other properties of historic merit in Monroe County.  Among the recent recipients for Grant Awards are:

  1. Old City Hall in Key West - $50,000 awarded to HFKF for the “Restoration and Protection of Old City Hall”
  2. The Armory in Key West - $194,000 awarded to HFKF for the “Restoration and Protection of the Historic Key West Armory”
  3. An ongoing agreement with the City of Key West to provide preservation services for the Key West Cemetery including walking tours, historic markers and notable gravestones.
  4. The undersea telegraph cable-laying schooner and Flagship of Florida and Key West, the Western Union.
  5. Historic markers for the Convent for St. Mary's in Key West and for the City of Tavernier.
  6. Funded a booklet about the history and architecture in Tavernier’s Historic District.

But it is the Ceramic Star that attracts so much attention!

307 Truman Ave. Key West


Since 1981, the HFKF has bestowed Presentation Awards to recognize excellence in four categories; preservation, restoration, rehabilitation and new construction.

Properties throughout Monroe County are eligible; historic properties, usually at least 50 years old, and newer properties located in historic districts. Past winners of Preservation Awards include private residences, hotels, restaurants, retail stores, forts, cemetery plots, industrial buildings and museums. Preservation Award winners vary from lavish, multi-million-dollar restoration projects to restrained, modest examples of good maintenance and stewardship.

Top winners receive a Ceramic Star. Those who win Honorable Mentions plus all architects, designers, builders, or craftspeople who contributed significantly to the success of a Ceramic Star or Honorable Mention winning project, receive a Certificate of Excellence.

Keys Energy 1950, 2015 and 2017.


Applications for awards must be submitted by January, judging occurs in February and the Preservation Awards ceremony takes place in March. Not only is it an honor to win such an award, but the community likewise thanks everyone connected to ALL of the nominated projects; owners, architects, builders and craftsmen and craftswomen for their painstaking contribution to the preservation of our community.  Wear your Ceramic Star proudly!

Congratulations to Commercial Winners

Haven Burkee (Bender & Associates), Patricia Baldus (Leaf Design) and Julio Torrado (Keys Energy)

Keys Energy Commercial Winners.


You can download an application for the 2018 Preservation Awards here.  This same application is used for residential and commercial applicants.  Some additional information on the process:


  1. A single application can cover more than one category; for example, you can submit a single application for consideration in both the presevation and rehabilitation categories.
  2. Know the history of your property.  The Key West Public Library, the Records Department of the Monroe County Court House (located in Key West) and the Monroe County Property Appraisers Office (also in Key West) can all provide detailed public information on your property.
  3. Historic maps such as the Sanborn Fire Insurance series can be of great help in dating your property. Sanborn maps for Key West are available for viewing at the Key West Public Library.  Here is an online sample.
  4. If you went through the HARC review and approval process, remember to keep notes on the written and verbal comments from the HARC Board and City of Key West staff that emphasizes the historic attributes of your property.  Use of the descriptions, phraseology and jargon from these meetings can be invaluable in your submission.
  5. Identify any and all Quality of Life improvements; i.e., Green energy technologies, use of renewable materials, water conservation, passive and active heating and cooling.
  6. Ease of movement and personal transportation enhancements especially regarding ADA compliances.
  7. Before and after photos will bring the scale and scope of your project to life.  Hard copy photos must accompany your application but this does not preclude you from also emailing .jpeg photos.
  8. A panel of judges, 3 - 4 people, will visit and walk through your property in February. The HFKF Staff is very flexible in scheduling these 15 - 30 minute walk throughs.



Congratulations to Residential Winners

Scot Korth, Thom Toler (Tomca Kier Construction) and Heather Korth (Korth Collaborative Design)

307 Truman Ave. Residential Winners!


Any person or entity (architect, contractor, etc.) associated with a project can submit the Preservation Award application, but a submission from a proud and involved owner is best.


For further information about the HFKF, you may contact Diane Silvia, Executive Director, at 305.292.6718 or email her here.


If you have any comments or questions you can contact me here.


Good luck!


Additional resources: