Would you ever house swap with someone and, if so, where and how long would you stay?
If you’ve not ever driven the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most scenic in the country, if not the world.
As you make your way south, hardwood hammocks line both sides of US Highway 1 and mile markers – the distance from the end of the road – determine addresses. Things will either be “on the Bay” if to your right, “on the ocean” if to your left. At MM 99, there’s a narrow driveway to the right that takes you to my friend Suzy’s house on the Florida Bay. At about 95, there is a tiny driveway on the left, kept private by the heavy iron gate. Once through the gate, through the field, beneath the trees you’ll find Diver’s Cove, a private 10-acres directly on the Atlantic Ocean.
My friend Suzy’s family owns this property, this little slice of heaven. Her parents made the move from Miami to Key Largo in the late 60s. As Suzy tells it, “we were always in boats. At different times, my father had an airboat for the Everglades. He ran a charter boat, and fished commercially for yellowtail, all while building houses. We spent many days and nights coming south for skin diving and fishing, both in the backcountry and off the ocean side of the Keys. After many trips and vacations, we five kids were ecstatic to live here full time.”
I was living in Key West and during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I would drive north as fast as a Corvair would go every chance I had to Suzy’s house. The Atlantic was clear all the way out to the reef line and we would snorkel for hours on end. Suzy knew no fear – still doesn’t – and I didn’t know enough to be cautious. I followed her lead wherever it took us. We were out once in the flats and found cinder blocks with chains attached. We laughed that those were concrete shoes for one of Miami’s many mobsters. This was the early 70s, after all. Just a few years ago we realized it wasn’t so funny, that it was probably this man chained to those blocks: “Thomas Franze was just 25 years old when his body was found July 14th 1973 by passing boaters in the water, offshore of the Lime Grove Estates in the Upper Keys. He was wrapped in a canvas bag, secured with rope. His body had been wrapped in chains, presumably to weigh it down.”
The family property has gone through some changes. A second house was built and the original place reinvented as Divers’ Cove, a very small vacation rental with few frills but with the boat ramp, basin and waterfront location, everything a serious diver could need. Monroe County shut it down, something about permits and taxes.
I went back to Suzy’s two years ago. So much remained the same: water still clear in the basin, a view of the Atlantic that went for miles. The only thing really different was the “for sale” sign in near the highway. The asking price? A cool $13.4 million.
That view? Worth every penny!
Would I house swap? In a New York minute.
How long would I stay? If the family would go with me, forever.