KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Restored cigar-makers’ cottages and gingerbread-trimmed Victorian mansions stand side by side on Key West’s narrow streets, creating an intriguing architectural fusion in the historic Old Town district.

Visitors can explore houses exemplifying that architectural heritage — and contemporary island design — during weekend house and garden tours set for January, February and March 2011.

Tours are planned Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21-22, Feb. 18-19 and March 18-19. Each is to showcase five homes, ranging from exquisite restorations to creative renovations, and the interior design that complements their architecture and adds a unique Key West flavor.

The tours are hosted by the nonprofit Old Island Restoration Foundation, created in 1960 to promote the restoration and preservation of historically significant Key West structures. Foundation volunteers serve as guides at each stop, informing visitors about the featured houses and their highlights.

Key West’s historic district includes almost 3,000 structures, many of them built by shipbuilder-carpenters and cigar manufacturing barons in the 1800s. The island’s architecture reflects the building styles and cultures of its early settlers.

The January house tour is set for 5-8 p.m. both evenings. Transportation is to be offered free aboard select Conch Tour Trains, or participants can proceed from house to house at their own pace.

The February and March tours are offered 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with visitors responsible for providing their own transportation.

Tickets for each tour cost $25 per person and can be purchased in advance at www.oirf.org. Proceeds from the tours benefit the OIRF’s programs to preserve Key West’s architecture and cultural heritage.

Event information: www.oirf.org or 305-294-9501
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Social: www.facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywest • twitter.com/thefloridakeys

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