"" Writer's Wanderings: The Florida Keys - A Little History

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Florida Keys - A Little History

It was a Sunday afternoon. We finished our last Sunday brunch at our favorite place, Snapper's, and instead of heading back to the condo, we decided to drive down to Islamorada to the museum we had been told was there featuring a history of the Keys. Halfway there we wondered if it had been such a good idea. Traffic heading south on US1 was backed up as often happens on weekends and then we remembered there was also a seafood festival going on down the way as well we took a deep breath and kept on. It took twice as long to get to the Islander where the museum is located but we finally made it.

There was also an art show going on at the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center and much to our delight because of it, the entry fee to the museum was waived. We smiled, thanked the receptionist and began our self tour.

There are not a lot of artifacts but there is a sampling of items from the very earliest inhabitants right up to the modern day. Tales of tribes, then Spanish fleets (many of which were shipwrecked in a hurricane), then the settling of the area and the real expansion as the railroad came to be.

That was what interested us the most, the building of the railway. The man largely responsible was Henry Flagler who we discovered had a connection to Ohio and Cleveland with his association with Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company. The railroad was finished in 1912 and was followed by an overseas highway that was finished in 1928 that allowed travel to Key West without having to ferry your car.

What I did not expect were the tales of destruction and stories of survival of the Cat 5 hurricane that came through the Keys in 1935. Between the winds and the storm surge much of the area was totally devastated. It compared in force with 1992 's Hurricane Andrew which was also a Cat 5 but because of the area around Miami and Homestead that was affected cost much more in damages.

All in all it was worth the traffic jam and sparked a lot more interest in the history of the area. I have some reading to do.

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