Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Hotel owner renovates old gas station

TAVERNIER -- The owner of a historical Tavernier hotel is remodeling a room that once served as the town's Standard Oil gas station.

Craig Hunt, a Key West businessman who also owns the Conch Harbor Marina, said the small building, which is available to disabled guests of the Historic Tavernier Inn Hotel, needed renovations, so it was the perfect time to restore it.

"This is something we wanted to do and now seemed like the right time," Hunt said. "We wanted to do it properly."

The building was run down a bit and there were lingering problems with the shower, he said.

The renovation comes to the delight of Alice Allen, a longtime Tavernier resident and chair of the Monroe County Historical Preservation Commission, which must approve changes to historical buildings.

"He should get a pat on the head," Allen said of Hunt.

Allen said she is happy the hotel property will reflect its original state. The main building previously was the Tavernier Key Theater before later becoming the Tavernier Hotel. The gas station was built by Oliver M. Woods in the 1920s and later belonged to Hugh "Mac" McKenzie, who also owned the theater, according to local historian Jerry Wilkinson.

"It will be like I remember it," Allen said.

Completion is still a few weeks away and Hunt said he is planning a celebration, when he hopes to place an antique gas pump outside the hotel. Hunt is trying to track one down within a reasonable price range, he said.

Hunt said he has not applied for any grant money to try to offset the renovation costs.

"But the good news is the hotel is doing very well." Hunt said.

Nightly rates at the hotel last weekend ranged from about $99 to $110, according to its website.

Hunt, a former Holiday Inn executive who says he bought the Tavernier hotel property as a retirement project, said future renovations at the property are likely.

jgore@keysnews.com

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