After all, I was a writer moving to Key West for the first time. That in Jim's mind deserved special consideration when it came to finding me an apartment. He went down to the Heritage House Museum in response to an ad for a large efficiency with private bath and deck, and sold them on renting it to me in abstentia. His southern charm and delivery practically made me a legend!
The Heritage House Museum and Robert Frost Cottage is nestled between Kelly McGillis' former home, and one of her bistro bars located behind the original offices of Pan American Airways. Standing in front of the Heritage House, one can see the Truman White House less than a hundred yards to the left, and the Bull and Whistle Bar (with its roof top, clothing optional, Garden of Eden Bar) forty yards to the right. Point being, it was located in a very "touristy" area of Old Downtown.
The residence is owned by the Porter family, descendents of Commodore Porter, who had been creditied with ridding the Keys of pirates. The Porters originally owned a generous portion of Old Key West, and are well represented on the island to this day. A bust of the Commodore may be found in Mallory Square.
The Heritage House boasts the only fresh water spring on the island, the very same watering hole used by pirates to fill their vats.
I was privileged to reside in what had been Miss Jesse's room, on the second floor immediately above the museum. Ms. Jesse was the mother of Ms. Jeane, the matriarch of the Porter family at the time of my stay. Ms Jeane lived alone in the large wooden house on the Porter compound. She was a published writer and well known local artist, and a very strong, take charge kind of woman.
From my second floor deck, I had a magnificent view of the pool, courtyard, and Robert Frost Cottage. On random occasions, Ms. Jeane's Brazilian personal assistant, Augusto, would come up to my door and summon me for poolside cocktails with Ms Jeane. Each time, he would remind me to bring along some sampling of my latest writing for Ms. Jeane's comments and criticisms. And, believe me, she always had plenty of both to offer!
The Porters were long time friends of poet Robert Frost, who frequently vacationed at the compound. Thus the addition of "and Robert Frost Cottage" to the name of the place. Ms. Jeane constantly reminded me that I had big shoes to fill. As she read my pages floating in the pool, Augusto and I downed cocktails. She would mutter and comment...comment and mutter over the wet, dripping papers.
Once Augusto managed to hoist her out of the water, and she toweled dry, Ms. Jeane would join us to render her formal assessment of my work. I assured her on numerous occasions that I was no Robert Frost, but promised that I would try my best not to disappoint her.
After his daily duty hours, and on some days off, it was not uncommon for Augusto to invite me down to the Robert Frost Cottage (where he resided on the compound) to join him for a few Coronas. Those were the times! We never ran out of conversation, and it was always great fun. However, there seemed to never be enough beer, and one or the other of us would inevitably gladly make a beer run.
The Heritage House was an excellent first place to land upon arriving in the Keys. I felt both honored and privileged for having had that opportunity. I had the place from 1 May to 31 October, six wonderful months. The second half of the year, the room was occupied by an old family friend who came down each year from New England.
I began a search for another cool place to live, and came up with a room with shared common areas, in an old conch house, and the home of quite an eccentric artist!
Next: 1413 Williams Street