Old Town is the historic section of Key West in the downtown area. The Center of which is Duval Street, which is said to be the longest street in the US - running from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The street is lined with many shops, restaurants, and bars with lively entertainment. This is where Key West began and grew to be the most populated and wealthiest city in Florida in 1876 when the cigar rolling industry and sponging were king. There is a lot of colorful history in these old streets. The rest of Key West did not develop until after World War II when, what is now known as New Town, was salt marshes that gradually were filled to create land for development.
The character and charm of Old Town have been painstakingly preserved in the largest residential historic district in the United States. Prices per square foot are some of the highest on the island, but the proximity of restaurants, entertainment, and shops within walking distance add to its desirability for part-time and long-term residents.
Efforts were made to preserve the historic architecture in Key West in the 1970s. The Historic Architectural Review Committee, HARC, was put in place to protect the character of these buildings. Today, all new construction or alteration of existing buildings in the historic portion of Key West must first be approved by this committee of local volunteers.