Hemingway and Truman would have loved small-duct AC in Key West

By Scott Intagliata, Marketing Director, Unico, Inc. 

When Hurricane Irma slammed into Key West, Florida in early September, thankfully it left two historic properties intact and largely unscathed. The island is host to both President Harry S. Truman’s vacation getaway and the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum – two places that exemplify the allure of tropical living, preserve noteworthy moments in history, and welcome thousands of curious tourists annually.

Besides their historical importance, the two properties have something else in common: both feature modernized, energy efficient air conditioning with The Unico System.  These homes are excellent examples of updating historic properties with small-duct central HVAC without sacrificing their integrity and inherent charm. (Scroll down to see how you can enter to win a trip to Key West!)

Harry S. Truman’s “Little White House”

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Harry S. Truman’s “Little White House”

In 1946, President Truman established his winter vacation home in Key West.  The President chose a house originally built in 1890 that had served as the first officer’s quarters for the naval base on which it is located.  It affectionately became known as “The Little White House,” and offered Truman a respite from the problems and pressures in the wake of WWII.

However, the high humidity of the tropical locale threatened the historic character of the home and its appointments. “Over 85% of the original fabric remains intact, so it was very important that we select the right HVAC system to protect the structure, our original furnishings, and documentary collections,” said executive director Bob Wolz. The home needed an HVAC system to protect its irreplaceable artifacts but, unfortunately, the conventional system installed in 1990 was not doing the job.  Humidity was degrading the museum items and could not cool the 9,000-square-foot structure evenly.  The restoration contractor recommended small-duct HVAC as the only solution to the home’s heating and cooling needs.

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Poker table at the house. Can you spot the AC vent?

With the installation of The Unico System, Wolz states “The uniform temperature throughout the house is pleasant to guests and staff and protects our artifacts.”  This gives peace of mind to historians and visitors alike, who can be assured that the home will remain a place to enjoy historic ambiance and objects in a comfortable setting.

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

Hemingway exterior - Credit Rob O'Neal Photography

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

The prolific author and his wife moved to Key West in 1928 where Hemingway finished “A Farewell to Arms.”  After falling in love with the island and its environs, the Hemingways found permanent lodging in a two-story Spanish Colonial style home built in 1851 from native limestone hewn from the grounds.

Curators have taken care over the years to preserve the original architecture and the family’s furnishings. But one issue constantly plagued the home: the intense heat and humidity of the Florida Keys. The climate made it unbearably hot in the house. The discomfort was so pronounced in summer that at least two visitors would faint during tours every week, says longtime curator Dave Gonzales.

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The dining room. A wood small-duct AC vent is stained to match the hardwood flooring

Due to the success of the Little White House installation, Dave chose The Unico System and received the blessing of both the local architectural committee and the National Park Service.  Working with Unico engineers and a Miami HVAC contractor, Dave oversaw the installation process.  Of the system’s performance Dave says, “The system works great and operates quietly,” an important feature since the museum conducts tours every 20 minutes with as many as 25 visitors per tour. “The air conditioning doesn’t interfere at all – we can hardly hear it.  Best of all, the efficiency of the system has not significantly raised our utility bill.  THAT’S been a very pleasant surprise, indeed.”


To experience the unparalleled comfort and “hidden” nature of small-duct HVAC solutions firsthand, Unico is holding a sweepstakes for a free trip-for-two to Key West, including behind-the-scenes tours of the Hemingway Home and Little White House.  Enter to win a chance to experience the benefits of The Unico System in person!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Intagliata is the Marketing Director for Unico, Inc. Learn more about Unico, Inc. here.

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