At 50 years old and 800 square feet, the sexton's house that serves those who visit and manage the Key West Cemetery has run its course, according to city planners who expect to break ground on a newer, larger building in late spring.
"The sexton's house has to convey a sense of dignity, history, calmness and importance," said Planner Don Craig. "This is the sexton's house for one of the largest historic cemeteries on the East Coast."
At 165 years old, the island city's cemetery comprises 19 acres in the center of Old Town and is the final resting place of at least 75,000 souls.
The new sexton's house, a 1½-story, 1,521-square foot building, is due for completion in the fall, said Craig, with a price tag of about $350,000. It will provide enough storage space for all cemetery records, which are now stored at a couple different city offices.
But the expected good looks of the design remain important, too, said Craig.
"These are signature pieces; it has to be simple, direct and clean," he said. "It's understated, to convey that sense of respect."
Having already been approved by the Planning Board and the Historic Architectural Review Commission, the project awaits the final stamp of the City Commission in January.
Craig said the present sexton house, the office of Russell Brittain, looks like a small house or a large storage building.
Others are quite blunt about the modest building with the window air-conditioning units that sits at the corner of Angela and Margaret streets.
"It's decrepit," said Cynthia Edwards, a volunteer with the Friends of the Key West Historic Cemetery Committee. "It's way too small. You have to walk sideways to get around."
Designed by architect Michael Miller, the new sexton's house will provide storage in the attic -- about 700 square feet -- along with about 824 square feet for an office, bereavement room and attic storage.
The new building, at 20 feet, 6 inches tall, is modeled on a Georgian style with a centered front portico held by Tuscan columns, according to the city staff report.
A ramp that complies with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act has also been proposed.