Key West Famous Resident Profile: Tennessee Williams

Many people who visit Key West fall in love with the island. So did famed playwright Tennessee Williams. His first of many visits to the island was in 1941. Rumor has it that he finished writing A Streetcar Named Desire during a stay on Duval Street in 1947. So, it came as no surprise when in 1949 he decided to call the island home. Williams lived in a modest house at 1431 Duncan Street until his death in 1983.

The Duncan Street house was a place where Williams could relax and write. He dubbed his writing studio “the Mad House.” While Tennessee lived a simple life, he moved his sister to a house on Von Phister Street. This is where he held famous parties. That is not to say that the Duncan Street house did not receive some notoriety. In the 1970’s the house was broken into several times and his gardener was murdered in the backyard.

Williams liked that he could get away from the world in Key West. When he was not writing, he would ride around the island on his bicycle. He frequented Captain Tony’s Saloon, a place that another famed Key West resident and author liked to go. Although, in Ernest Hemingway’s day, the bar was called Sloppy Joe’s. Like Hemingway, Williams suffered from depression and alcoholism. 

Tennessee Williams’ Key West Legacy

Unlike Hemingway, Williams was not celebrated on the island until more recently. Now, every March, Williams’ birthday is celebrated with play productions, contests, and movie screenings at the Tropic Cinema

In 1971, Tennessee Williams recorded his poetry and gave the recording to the Monroe Country Public Library. And in 1975, the library auditorium was named for him. In 1980, the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center opened with a premier of one of Williams’ plays. Williams is also credited with attracting attention to Key West’s gay friendly atmosphere. 

In 2010, the Key West Art and Historical Society asked Dennis Beaver to create an exhibit on Tennessee Williams in honor of his 100th birthday. The exhibit at the East Martello Museum was a huge success. And so, a decade later the Tennessee Williams Museum opened. The collection includes old notebooks, a typewriter, photos, and newspaper clipping. Also included are a series of illustrations based on characters from Williams’ plays and a wall dedicated to the film “The Rose Tattoo.” Finally, Tennessee Williams’ muse and sister, Rose, also has a section dedicated to her.

More About Key West

March is a great time of year for Backcountry Fishing. The tarpon start to show up this month, joining other species such as barracudas, sharks, jacks and others that we fish for in this area. And, the calm, shallow waters keeps people from getting seasick during this particularly windy month. 

For more about Key West, go to our Key West Web Site. And, remember to check out our restaurant reviews as you surely must eat while down here! 

Island Genn – Key West Concierge

About the author: Island Genn

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