Awarded for Excellence in Preservation & Restoration in Historic Key West

As I mentioned in my previous blog, OIRF sent a team of volunteers to our home for two nights in late December for the Key West historic home tour. It was because of this tour that we ended up applying for a historic preservation award in 2017.

Key West Remodel
Finishing touches prior to the historic house tour.

During the tour, one of the docents complimented us on the massive remodel that we had recently completed in late 2016. We were standing in the new kitchen as  I showed her some before & after photos of our work. She knew that my wife had been the architect behind the 6-month renovation, and as we looked at photos together, I explained the changes we had made to this historic home. Are you going to apply for the preservation award? The ceramic star? she asked me.

Preservation Ceramic Star Award
The Ceramic Star Preservation Award

The star that she referred to is an honor that is awarded by the Historic Florida Keys Foundation (HFKF). Since 1981, the HFKF has been giving out awards that recognize excellence for historic preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation. The criteria for judging the award applicants is based on the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. There have been numerous award applicants over the years, but only the most exemplary preservation or restoration projects earn the ceramic star. According to the HFKF, the ceramic star represents the highest level of award, and the hallmark of the Preservation Awards Program. The star represents the tie-rod, which strengthens a structure, and thus symbolized the strength of historic preservation in Key West.

Back in the kitchen, I left the docent alone so she could prepare for the tour, and for the rest of the evening I continued to think about the words I had heard earlier. Are you going to apply for the preservation award?

So over the next few days Heather & I tossed around the idea of applying for a preservation award. When I went to the HFKF’s website, I found out that the applications were due in mid-January. That didn’t leave us much time, but we decided to go for it.

The application is available on their website and the projects are awarded based on the Standards for Rehabilitation. The bulk of the application is based on several questions, including some of the following:  What is the history of the property? What features contribute to the historic character of the property? How have those features been maintained?

The first question asks about the history of the property. We were in luck, because like many homes in Old Town, our house has a ton of history. We wanted to demonstrate that, as the owners of the house, we truly cared for and wanted to celebrate the home’s unique history. As the architect, Heather was extremely knowledgable about the nuts and bolts of the project. Her answers to the questions were thorough and well-informed.


Including the before & after photos, the application ended up being just under 10 pages long. Crossing our fingers, we sealed the envelope and put it in the mail to the HFKF. We knew that the panel of judges would not conduct their site visits until early February, so we had a few weeks to wait.

On February 10th, a letter arrived in our mail box from the Historic Florida Keys Foundation. We opened it together, reading nervously and quickly scanning for anything mentioning an award. About half-way down the letter, in bold lettering, we were told that all of our hard work was being rewarded. It read:

I am happy to inform you that you have been selected to win a Star and Certificate of Excellence for Preservation and Restoration at 307 Truman Avenue.

Award Ceremony
Heather Korth (architect) & Thom Toler (Tomca Kier Construction) with their award certificates.

As well, we were invited to the awards presentation and reception at the Harry S. Truman Little White House, where both Heather and our general contractor, Thom Toler, would be recognized for the success of our project. At the presentation, we were joined by our friends Thom & Camille Toler, as well as our close friend & realtor  John Parce, who was instrumental in helping us purchase this home in late 2015.

As the architect and builder, Heather & Thom each received a certificate of excellence. As the homeowners, Heather & I left the presentation with our own certificate of excellence and a ceramic star. The star will be placed on the front of our home for all to see, and as a constant reminder of not just all the hard work and effort that went into the remodel, but as a symbol of the teamwork that took place over the past 18 months. From Heather’s first sketches, to our meetings with HARC and The City of Key West, to the 6 months that Tomca Kier Construction spent working on our home, the ceramic star award is for everyone who contributed to the success of our historic preservation and restoration project in Key West.

If you’d like to learn more about the Preservation Awards, the history of the Historic Florida Keys Foundation, and how they operate today, check out this very informative blog, published recently by John Parce.

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