As the Florida Keys continue to recover from the impact of Hurricane Irma, Key West’s 126-year-old Custom House hosts their annual “Back In Time” fundraiser on Wednesday, November 29 from 5:00pm – 10:00pm, an event that will support the building’s ongoing preservation needs and address current disrepair, raise funds to help support Habitat for Humanity’s hurricane-recovery efforts, and toast Scotti Merrill Preservation Award recipient Tom Hambright, one of the best historians and collection-keepers of Key West history.
The second annual “Back In Time” fundraiser is an opportunity for The Society to raise much-needed capital to support their preservation mission. When The Society became stewards of the county-owned building in 1991, it was in near-derelict condition, boarded up and left to sit untouched in the salt air and sun for over two decades. Original leadership spearheaded an ambitious 9-year, 9 million-dollar renovation with the generous support of the community and the late Scotti Merrill. The current Society team continues with the steady efforts and dedication necessary to maintain and preserve the building many consider “Key West’s architectural crown jewel.”
Last year’s inaugural event raised $120,000, monies that will help overhaul the building’s failing climate control system, “essential to preserving both the building and the collection,” says Executive Director Michael Gieda. They hope this year’s event will help raise a portion of the remaining $300,000 needed to complete the repairs.
“Overhauling the Custom House’s mechanical system is our highest priority,” says Gieda. “Without optimal climate control, damage to the building and the collection housed within it is likely.”
They now also need to eventually replace the emergency generator, make repairs to the roof, interior plaster, and masonry, and restore the outdoor landscaping of their sculpture gardens, all of which were impacted by hurricane Irma.
The Society is aware that they aren’t alone in their recovery efforts; This year’s fundraiser brings in Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds and repairs houses using volunteer labor and donations. Habitat will host and benefit from the event’s silent auction.
“Given the impact of Hurricane Irma, I felt it was important to incorporate other organizations directly aiding in the recovery efforts,” say Gieda. “There is still a long road ahead for parts of the Keys, so it’s wonderful that we can join forces with Habitat and hopefully raise some much-needed funds.”
And some much-needed fun. The Sock Hop-themed celebration gets started from 5:00pm – 6:30pm with cocktails and the Fabulous Spectrelles on the veranda of the Custom House, the island’s architectural crown jewel located on 281 Front Street, then moves to Margaritaville Resort’s Grand Ballroom, which will be transformed into a 1950s gymnasium. The evening will feature live music by Patrick & the Swayzees, a silent auction to benefit Habitat for Humanity, the presentation of this year’s Scotti Merrill Preservation Award to Tom Hambright, and a cheeky gourmet take on 50s cuisine, complete with soda fountain.