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Today in Key West History
4 minutes | Jan 23, 2019
Key West History - Jan. 23, 1896 - Florida's Wealthiest Man Dies
Born in Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas on Sept. 21, 1821, William Curry had always heard the tales of the fortunes that could be made in a nearby city call Key West. At the age of 15, Curry came to the island of Key West as a penniless immigrant, with nothing more than outsized ambition going for him. He arrived in 1837, when Key West was the wealthiest city in the state, and had the most per capita wealth of any city in the country. At that time the main industry was wrecking. Curry’s work history began as humble as any of ours has. He got a job as a clerk in the office of Weever & Baldwin. The position paid $1 a week and also included room and board. He left Key West for several years to fight in the Seminole War, but eventually landed back in Key West, where he began his climb up the corporate ladder in earnest. He rose in the ranks to become the US quartermaster, and went on to be named a partner in a firm. He eventually ascended to take over the firm in 1861. William Curry had an innate business sense that served him well. He was able to amass a fortune through his various business holdings and investments - a retail mercantile, wrecking, ship building, and of course, his investments in the stock market. Curry’s story is the epitome of the “American Dream” - rags to riches story, that gives all of us a glimmer of hope. William married his wife, Euphemia and together they raised 8 children. Eventually, 3 of the children formed the William Curry’s Sons Company and ran the family business through that entity. William Curry also had a keen eye for real estate, and during the course of his life, he acquired quite a portfolio of some prime Key West real estate. His own personal home, that’s referred to today as The Curry Mansion, was quite impressive. However, the structure that we see standing today is actually the rebuilt version of the home. The original home was virtually all demolished in 1905, and save for the stone hearth and chimney, Milton Curry, a son of William rebuilt the structure entirely. This rebuild included large amounts of then plenteous Date County Pine and lots of ornate and decorative carving that is emblematic of the Georgian revival style. The 22 room mansion sits like a Gingerbread castle at 511 Caroline St., and to this very day captivates all who pass by. At the time of his death, William Curry had become Florida’s first self-made millionaire. With an estate valued at $1.5 million, he was at the time, the riches man in Florida. And it was today, Jan. 23, 1896 that William Curry died. He was survived by his wife and 8 children. And that’s what happened Today in Key West History. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. You can learn all about our glorious past and what’s currently going on in the beautiful Florida Keys by visiting http://43keys.com. You can find this show and others as an Alexa Flash Briefing, you can find us on YouTube, FB and anywhere you listen to podcasts. So, where ever you listen to the show, subscribe to never miss an episode. Then join us over at www.43keys.com.
4 minutes | Jan 22, 2019
Key West History - Jan. 22, 1926 - The First Luxury Hotel Opens in Key West
Despite having decades in the late 1800's where Key West had the highest amount of wealth per-capita, as well as being the largest city in Florida, it wasn't until 1926 that Key West experienced its first taste of luxury. Having confirmed its status as a bonafide city by re-inventing itself after the collapse of the wrecking industry, Key West continued to draw an elite class into its vortex. Politicians, Heads of State, writers and more celebrities than you could imagine were making Key West a destination of choice! During this time, Key West also began making a concerted effort to promote itself as a tourist destination. However, until 1926, there were really no true luxury accommodations to speak of. There were plenty of lavish private homes of the rich and well-heeled, but not all wealthy tourists had access to them. The LaConcha Hotel was really the first of its kind in Key West. It was a true luxury hotel, complete with private bathrooms, marble tile and it even had an elevator. The LaConcha remains the tallest building on the island today. Located in the heart of the Duval St. Historic district, it is an icon for locals and tourists alike. After its opening, the LaConcha has a history of hosting many famous people, and it remains a favorite spot to view the island - from the top of the tallest building on the island! You can check out the LaConcha Hotel at https://www.laconchakeywest.com. Book a stay and come see us! The LaConcha Hotel is one of the few hotels in Key West that have attained the distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being inducted into the Historic Hotels of America program. There are strict requirements to attain both of these designations. The LaConcha has managed to preserve its history and evolve as a modern destination. It was today, January 22, 1926 that the LaConcha Hotel first opened its doors to the public. There was entertainment and a private dinner attended by 175 well-connected Key Westers! And that's what happened Today in Key West History. You can visit us at http://43keys.com to find out more about our beautiful Florida Keys. You can also find this program and others as an Alexa Flash Briefing. You can find us on YouTube and anywhere you get your podcasts. Where ever you find us, subscribe so that you don't miss a single episode!
9 minutes | Jan 21, 2019
Key West History - Jan. 21, 1880 - Ulysses S. Grant Visits Key West
If I described a leader as a failed business man - multiple times, someone who struggled with alcohol, a military man who couldn't stand the uniforms, and a novice politician, you'd probably think I was describing a failed leader who quickly fell off the pages of history. However, this description fits one of the most influential men in US history in the 19th century! With many accomplishments and a victory in the Civil War, we could only be talking about Ulysses S. Grant! Learn some little known facts about him on Today in Key West History. It was today, Jan. 21, 1880 that Ulysses S. Grant and rode into town and was the guest of honor at the Jefferson Hotel on Duval St. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Visit us at http://43Keys.com
4 minutes | Jan 19, 2019
Key West History - Jan 18, 1912 - The Filming of Flagler's Railroad Journey
The dream of one man changed the isolation of the Florida Keys for all time. Henry Flagler was a native New Yorker and he was born in 1830. He only went to school up until the eighth grade. But later on, he went on to establish the Standard Oil Company with John D. Rockefeller - that was in 1870 and he became very wealthy. After that, in 1885, he purchased a shoreline railroad between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and then he began expanding it toward Miami. Miami was at that time only a very small settlement, not the big metropolis that it is. Now, Flagler had a vision and the vision of his railroad went to Miami. But beyond Miami, he wanted to connect the mainland to the deep port of Key West. At this time, Key West was a booming city it had more than 10,000 residents and it had the highest concentration of wealth of any city in the country. Flagler might have also had in the back of his mind that if he could connect the railroad to Key West, then he could also connect the railroad to Cuba. His railroad extended to Homestead by 1904, and after that he began work on connecting the entire Florida Keys. By 1908, the railroad had connected Homestead to Marathon,. Marathon became a boomtown - ships brought their cargoes of Cuban pineapples and limes, and they were loaded on the railway cars and shipped North. The railroad turnaround from Marathon to Homestead was at the Knights Key Campground. It's just recently been demolished and a brand new resort is still being built right there. It took a whole lot of engineering to overcome that seven mile gap between Marathon and Bahia Honda. During the construction of this section of the railroad, construction work was hampered by devastating hurricanes both in 1909 and 1910. But on January 22, 1912, Henry Flagler, who was now the ripe old age of 82, finally rode his dream from Homestead to Key West. He jumped in the railroad car and went across 42 stretches of sea over 17 miles of concrete, viaducts, and concrete and steel bridges, over 20 miles of filled calls ways ultimately covering 128 miles from island to island, and it was the culmination of his grand vision. Henry Flagler entered Key West that day a hero. Henry Flagler died the following year, and probably never knew that his big dream his vision, his flight of fancy had changed the course of the Florida Keys forever. It was today January the 18th, 1912, that John J. Frawley of the Lubin Manufacturing Company was in Key West to film the arrival of the first train on Henry Flagler's Railroad, and also to get some footage of the other industries of the city. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today, in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. You can find this and other programs as an Alexa flash briefing. You can also find us on YouTube and anywhere you listen to your podcasts. You can also find out more about our glorious past and the Florida Keys and even what's going on right now by visiting http://43keys.com.
6 minutes | Jan 18, 2019
Key West History - Jan 17, 1928 - Calvin Coolidge and His Wife Arrived in Key West
When President Donald Trump visited Key West late last year, it was the first time in nearly 55 years for a sitting US president to visit Key West. Prior to that, the last time was when John F. Kennedy stopped by to inspect the defenses of Key West and provide some positive publicity for South Florida. And that was in November of 1962, following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Key West's location and climate has a long history of drawing in the top executives, not just from companies but also from the most powerful nation in the world. US presidents have loved Key West for years. One of the most famous visitors was Harry Truman. Harry Truman came to Key West 11 times during his presidency. He always ended up staying at the Navy's officer residence. And that house is now called Truman's Little White House. Ulysses S. Grant was the first US president to visit Key West. He came in 1880, it was 11 years after leaving office, while traveling with Civil War General, Phil Sheridan. They were on a steamship from New Orleans bound for Havana, but had to stop in Key West for the day. That was during the period when Key West was one of the largest cities in Florida and also one of the wealthiest. Another Civil War leader, Jefferson Davis had also visited Key West. He stopped by in 1867, the day after he was released from prison on bail. Key West is a good place to go when you just get out of jail! In his first term as President, Grover Cleveland also stopped by Key West in 1889. He spent a few hours in the city and he was shown around the island in carriages, and there was a public reception held at the Russell House. William Howard Taft came to Key West on Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway. The year was 1912. That was just 11 months after the railway opened and President Taft was on his way to inspect the Panama Canal. But of course he had to come to Key West first and then get on a ship. And Calvin Coolidge also stopped by Key West on his way back from a meeting in Cuba. That year was 1928 and he had just finished speaking at a big conference in Cuba. Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Key West six times between 1917 and 1939, he was practically a snowbird. His first stop was when he was young Assistant Secretary of the Navy and he was en route to Cuba as well. After Roosevelt was stricken with polio, he spent several winters in the Keys on a houseboat. And then he also came back to Key West as president in 1939. It was a very different ride then as he was coming down the overseas highway, in an open air convertible. And you can be sure that Key West always appreciated this type of attention from the chief executive, as many of our streets in Key West our name for Presidents - there's Truman Avenue, there's Einsenhower and Kennedy Dr. Dwight Eisenhower first came to Key West before he became president. He was the Presiding Officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he came and he spent 21 days at the Little White House, trying to recover from an illness. Guess who recommended that he do that? You got it - Harry Truman. Eisenhower also returned in 1955 when he was recovering from a heart attack. You're seeing the theme here. People love to come to Key West to recuperate from all the ills of the rest of the world. President Kennedy came through a trip on Key West back in March of 1961. And he met the British Prime Minister here in Key West for a summit. So prior to Donald Trump visiting at the end of last year, John F. Kennedy's visit to Key West in 1962 was the last time a sitting president came to Key West. A couple other presidents visited us, but it was after they had left the office. Jimmy Carter came down. Bill Clinton has been here. gGeorge HW Bush had a lovely little fishing hidey hole that he liked to come and do some fishing in Islamorada. We heard a lot about that after he passed away last year many many stories were told about the wonderful interactions people had with him while he was in Islamorada. And it was today, January 17 1928, that President Calvin Coolidge and his wife arrived in Key West uponreturning from the sixth Inter-American Conference held in Havan. They arrived by ship. And once they arrive, the mayor showed him around, showed him the Naval Station, the Army barracks, the airport and then they took a ride along beautiful Ocean Avenue, what we call today, North and South atRoosevelt Boulevard. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. You want to learn all about our illustrious past and even what's going on today in Key West, visit http://43keys. com. You can get this program, as well as others, as an Alexa flash briefing. And you can find this on YouTube and anywhere that you listen to podcasts. So don't forget to subscribe and we'll see you over at http://43keys.com.
5 minutes | Jan 16, 2019
Key West History - Jan. 15, 1971 - Finally a Conviction in the Murder of a Charter Boat Captain and His Son
Roger Foster, the 17 year old admitted killer of the charter boat, Dream Girls, two man crew was brought to us by a Coast Guard vessel and was immediately whisked away from the docks by FBI agents and Key West Police officers. The husky youth, wearing a t-shirt and pants stained with blood, was held for 15 minutes aboard the Coast Guard Cutter after its arrival, and then hurried to waiting automobile. Both his hands were bandaged and he appeared dazed and he was led ashore as an FBI agent held him firmly by one arm and Sheriff Henry Haskins held the other. The cutter also towed the Dream Girl into port. Her deck was spattered with blood. "I murdered them and threw them overboard." Foster told Coast Guardsmen whenever the charter boat was found on Friday, after a wide search, out of fuel about 20 miles from the coast of communist Cuba. The 17 year old youth was alone on the deck. He said he had killed the captain Douglas Trevor age 47 and his son Edward, 22, who was the First Mate. Foster apparently chartered the sport fishing boat, possibly in a mad effort to reach Cuba for an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. After earlier attempting to kill himself in a Key West motel room. A crowd of about 100 had gathered across the boat slip from the Coast Guard dock. The FBI said it would confer with the sheriff's department to determine who had jurisdiction. Newsmen were not permitted to talk to Foster in the waiting room where grief stricken relatives and friends of the Trevor's and Fosters father, Dr. H. A. Foster a Griffin, GA physician. Until the boats arrival, details of the sinister sea tragedy had been withheld from him, presumably because of a weak heart. The Dream Girl was found after a wide search. After reaching it, Coast Guardsmen gave Foster first aid and put him under guard and took the boat in tow. A suicide note found in Rogers blood spattered Key West motel room had said, "I think I'm insane." It urged authorities, "do not publicize my death. And be careful when you tell my father because he has a bad heart." A Key West Naval Physician, Lieutenant Terrell Tanner refused to tell newsmen where his friend, Dr. Foster, was spending the night. "I intended to break the news to him on Saturday" Tanner said, "I think it would be better for him to have what rest he can before he hears what the Coast Guard found." A picture of mental turmoil over American Nazi-ism, the Communist Party and Cuba's dictator Fidel Castro begin shaping up from information police gathered about Roger Foster. He was described by his mother in Griffin as "a brilliant boy who seemed to have stranger ideas" that prompted his parents to have him interviewed by a psychologist. "Maybe he was trying to get to Cuba and go after Castro on his own", Ms. Foster said. Roger tried to start an Anti-communism club at Griffin High School. Rogers mother said distress over a knee injury that prevented him from competing in school athletics may have led him to disappear Monday without leaving any word. At Key West, Roger evidently arranged passage on the Trevor's boat, Dream Girl. Shortly after noon on Thursday the Trevor's departed and it was sometime during the course of the afternoon that a struggle ensued, and both Captain Douglas and his son Edward were killed. Foster eventually pled not guilty to the murders - by reason of insanity. He was then committed to a mental institution, and later ended up standing trial for the murders of the Trevor's. But it was today January 15, 1971, that Roger Foster who admitted he killed charter boat Captain Douglas Trevor and his son Edward off the Marquesas Keys in 1963, was found guilty of second degree murder. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our historical and potentially criminal past visit http://43keys.com. You can get this program as well as others as an Alexa flash briefing. You can also find us on YouTube so go there and subscribe and visit us at http://43keys.com.
5 minutes | Jan 14, 2019
Key West History - Jan. 12, 1952 - The Pink Shrimp "Gold Rush" in Key West
In late 1949, 100 years after the peak of the California Gold Rush, Pink Gold was discovered off the Florida Keys near Dry Tortugus. The “gold” was a grooved variety of shrimp called “pink” shrimp in the industry – scientifically Panaeus duorarum. In early 1950, the first shrimpers arrived in Key West looking to off load and process their treasures. On February 11, 1950, The New York Times likened the Pink Gold Rush to that of the Klondike gold strike in the late 1890’s. More than 100 vessels were already at Key West with another 100 reported to be on their way. Fishing vessels and companies “staked claims” to docking space and freezing facilities; ice was being imported from Miami and rooms were hard to come by. The Paulsen-Webber Cordage Corporation reported an upsurge in the demand of “shrimp rope” and wire rope and shifted all production schedules to give priority to the urgent requests. “Pink Gold,” being nocturnal feeders, meant the best catches were made at night but the lack of sounding equipment and the presence of coral formations made fishing difficult. Continuing the trend at WW II’s end, the new trawlers being built were larger, more powerful, better equipped, and capable of longer distances from port and longer times at sea. In 1950, the fleet expansion continued rapidly with the desire, not only for “Pink Gold,” but also for fishery exploratory work looking for latent resources and the expansion of existing fisheries. Many of the shrimp trawlers were built in St. Augustine soon to be known as “Shrimp Boat City.” The Pink Gold Rush prompted St. Augustine to shift focus from catching shrimp to building shrimp trawlers (both shrimping and boatbuilding were a part of St. Augustine’s economy since early 20th century). The boat builders and their suppliers of propellers, engines, rigs, nets, generators, and other machinery saw sales grow to unprecedented levels. The Key West docks quickly filled to capacity and shrimpers began to use San Carlos Island and Estero Island dock to unload their catches. In 1954, other pink shrimp grounds were discovered around Sanibel Island, and Mexico. The heyday of the Pink Gold Rush was during the 1950s and 1960s and although the shrimp industry faces competition from farmed shrimp today, the shrimp fleet of San Carlos Island still off-loads wild pink shrimp. If you are ever in Key West and want to try out our delicious Pink Shrimp, you need to ask if the shrimp dish you are ordering is actually made with Key West Pink Shrimp. It's normally specified on the menu and if it isn't mentioned, it probably isn't. There's one way we always verify that we are eating pink shrimp and it's because Key West Pink Shrimp typically have a small dot on either side of their shell in about the 3rd or 4th abdominal bend. It looks like someone took a Sharpie and made a dot on either side. When you see that, you know you are eating the real thing! And it was today, Jan 12, 1952 that 200 Shrimping vessels were operating out of Key West. It was said that you could walk from one end of the marina to the other without ever touching water. And that's what happened today in Key West History! Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our delicious past, and our glorious future in Key West, visit http://43keys.com. You can get this program as well as others, as an Alexa Flash Briefing. You can also find us on YouTube, and whereever you get your podcasts. Until then, join us for the fun over at http://43keys.com.
3 minutes | Jan 12, 2019
Key West History - Jan. 11, 1926 - There's a Menace Terrorizing the City
There's a menace going on on the streets of Key West, as documented by the historic archive of the Key West citizen. And I quote, "Fully realizing that it is treading on sacred ground to interfere with the pleasures and pastimes of the little folks, The Citizen desires to call attention to the numerous complaints now made about boys and girls on roller skates monopolizing the sidewalks. In certain portions of the city, roller skating on sidewalks is a dangerous pastime dangerous for the children on skates, and very unsafe for pedestrians. It is not an uncommon sight to see a bevy of boys and girls, and frequently of girls only, skating along sidewalks at a fearful rate of speed. They seem to turn corners with complete abandonment and are likely to knock down persons turning the corner in an opposite direction. These children seem to think nothing of skating across the wall street in the thick of traffic, throwing themselves recklessly under the protection of the special Providence that is claimed to exist for the protection of children. Nothing short of a miracle keep some of them from being run over by automobiles on this busy thoroughfare. Climbing the post office steps is said to be another feat most creditably executed by children on skates, much to the discomfort of people entering and leaving the building. With the ever increasing volume of traffic on the streets of Key West, serious or even fatal accidents may be expected in the future. If this practice of skating on the streets and sidewalks is not checked, should a little life be snuffed out this way, all the admonitions of sad parents could not bring that little life back again. And it may be all the result of some fond parents not forbidding their children to race on the streets on roller skates. And it was today January 11, 1926, that The Key West Citizen took a stand against the menace of skating on the sidewalks and the streets and of parkour happening on the post office steps. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To find out about all of the big historical events and the little ones, visit http://43keys.com. If you want to come to Key West and skate and scooter, or ride your skateboard, come on down and visit us. You can find this show and more as an Alexa briefing. You can also find us on YouTube and anywhere you listen to your podcast. In the meantime, until see you again visit us at http://43keys.com.
5 minutes | Jan 11, 2019
January 10, 1861 - Key West Refuses to Secede from the Union
Key West was an awkward place to live when the Civil War broke out. The heavy military presence on the island meant that much of the island supported Union efforts, and with the critical Naval base fortified against capturing from the Confederacy, the island became even more firmly entrenched as a critical port for the Union during the Civil War. The military had no plans to give up control of Fort Taylor or Fort Jackson, and military battalions were sent in to make sure those bases were firmly in Union control. Fort Taylor played a central role in the sea blockade carried out by the Union Army. soldiers During this time, Key West had many prominent residents that were deeply Southern. They may not have been as committed to the Confederate as folks from Charleston or Savannah, but locally there was a contingent of Confederate sympathizers. The majority of Key West residents at the time were from the North, the Bahamas or Cuba, so many of the international transplant didn’t have a strong opinion about the war. Although the state of Florida seceded from the Union, Key West remained under Union control. In fact, the Key West lighthouse was the only lighthouse in Florida that did not come under the control of the Confederacy. During this period, Key West was Florida’s largest and wealthiest city, so despite it’s small geographic footprint, its critical location and status in Florida gave it the ability to control its own fate more than other cities. Inside the city of Key West, there were very clear alliances being made. On January 29, 1863, the Department of the South ordered that all Key Westers who had relatives in the Confederate Army and who had declined to take the oath of allegiance to the Union, or who had even spoken words disloyal about the Union were to be deported to Ft. Royal, SC, behind the rebel lines. As Union Commanders were preparing to carry out the order, the town was buzzing. Many seething at the audacity of such an order and others indignant that they were being forced out of their homes. This order brought protests from both Union sympathizers and Confederate loyalists. Property was being sold, people were crying in the streets and it was just complete chaos. The Union men lodged a protest and soon Colonel T.H. Good was sent to Key West with the authority to suspend the deportation order if he saw fit. The day the deportation transport was set to leave with 600 Key West Confederate sympathizers aboard, Colonel Good arrived and immediately suspended sailing. And it was today, January 10, 1861 that the State of Florida seceded from the Union, with Key West remaining loyal to the Union. Key West was the only southern city to remain in the United States during the Civil War.
10 minutes | Jan 10, 2019
January 9, 1827 - Construction Starts on the First Sand Key Lighthouse
Sand key is situated next to a channel that leads to Key West. It's located roughly eight miles to the north west of Key West. In normal conditions, a significant amount of sand accumulates on the submerged reefs at Sand Key and it actually creates a small island. Soon after the United States took possession of Florida in 1821, a wooden daymark was placed on the island to warn mariners of this navigational hazard. Lighthouses to mark Florida's reef had just recently been completed at Cape Florida, Key West and the Dry Tortugas, when Congress allocated $16,000 on May 18, 1826 for a lighthouse on Sand Key. The plans for this tower were similar to those us for the other three calling for a 70 foot conical brick tower, exhibiting a light from 11 lamps set in 14 inch reflectors. Sand Keys light revolved, producing a flashing signature that differentiated it from the nearby fixed light at Key West. The first keeper of Sand Key Lighthouse was slated to be Joseph Ximenez. However, keeper John Flaherty and his wife Rebecca were having a terrible time adjusting to their isolated lives on the Dry Tortugas. So the collector of customs at Key West, William Pinckney arranged for the two keepers to trade assignments. Shortly after the Flaherty's arrived on the island, Sand Key Light was exhibited for the first time on April 15, 1827. With fisherman, wreckers and picnickers from Key West frequenting the island, the Flaherty's thoroughly enjoyed their new social life. Their joy however, was short lived as John became very sick in May of 1828, and then passed away in 1830. Rebecca remained on the island and was appointed keeper after her husband's death. In June of 1831, William Randolph Hackley, and attorney in Key West, recorded the following account of a visit he made at Sand Key Lighthouse. "The wind was so light that we did not get to the Key until noon. I went up to the lighthouse. The light is revolving and it's one of the best in the United States. It's kept by Mrs. Flaherty. She with her sister and a hired man are the only inhabitants of the Key and sometimes there are none but the two females. The length of the key is from 150 to 200 yards, and the average breath 50 yards. We remain till evening and having spent a pleasant day, returned to town around 8pm. The November 23, 1834 edition of the Florida Herald reported a wedding on Sand Key Lighthouse. Rebecca Flaherty had married Captain Frederick Neill. The newlyweds took a lengthy trip the next year to visit family while, a temporary keeper watched the light. Upon their return, Captain Neil was appointed the keeper and served in this role until he resigned in February 10 of 1836. Captain Francis Wallington was the next keeper maintaining the light until July 27, 1837, when the colorful Captain Joshua Appleby succeeded him. Born in Rhode Island in 1773, Appleby became a widower at a young age when his first wife, Sarah Vaille died at 23. Leaving him alone to care for their one year old daughter, Eliza. In 1820, Appleby sailed for the Florida Keys, where he co founded a settlement on Vaca Key and made a living from the sea through fishing, turtling and salvaging shipwrecks. Appleby's salvaging practices were soon called into question as he was accused of conspiring with a privateer, Charles Hoffner, to intentionally run aground vessels captured by Hoffner so the cargo could be salvaged and sold. Commander David Porter, head of the naval Squadron a key was responsible for eradicating piracy had Apple be arrested in 1823, and takeen to the irons in Charleston, South Carolina. Appleby must have been innocent or had friends in high places as he was released after Smith Thompson, the Secretary of the Navy and President James Monroe reviewed the case. Upon securing his freedom, Appleby returned to Rhode Island for a time and then he relocated to Key West. In 1830, the government granted Appleby a license as a wrecker, a trade he practiced for several years. Then on July 27, 1837, he accepted an appointment as the head keeper of Sand Key Lighthouse. While Applebee's livelihood had previously depended on ships misfortunes, it was now his duty to keep these ships safely away from the reef. During Applebee's tenure at the lighthouse, hurricanes struck Sand Key in 1841 and 1842. With the 1842 hurricane destroying the keepers dwelling and seriously damaging the land. In 1843, a seawall was built around the lighthouse to properly provide protection from the storm surge that accompanied the hurricanes. The following year, that wall was put to the test and it failed. The new keepers dwelling was swept away along with a good portion of the island. Applebee's daughter, Eliza, have visited the lighthouse on October 1846, along with her husband and their three year old son, and Mary's adopted daughter. On October 11th, a hurricane described as "the most destructive have any that has ever visited these latitudes and the memory of man" hit Sand Key. As the hurricane strengthen, Appleby in his five visitors very likely sought refuge in the lighthouse, since the tower had withstood previous storms. The seawall again proved no match for the hurricane as the raging seas swept across the island washing away the dwelling, tower, and the island itself. The following morning waves were observed rolling over the reef where the island had been and no trace of the lighthouse could be seen. Still the reef posed a threat to vessels and Honey, a 140 ton ship was soon purchased in New York recommissioned as a light ship and sent to Florida to mark Sand Key. Congress acted quickly as well, allocating $20,000 on March 3, 1847 for a new Sand Key lighthouse. And then adding an additional some of $39,970 and 74 cents to the project in 1848. Before the new lighthouse was completed, at least eight vessels had run aground on the reef resulting in a loss of over $420,000. Although lighthouses were expensive to construct, the reduction in lost cargo easily offset the investment. Hurricanes struck Sand Key lighthouse tower again in 1856 and 1865, followed by the twin hurricanes of 1870, and another one in 1875. Each hurricanes swept away most of the island and the station's Wharf, boathouse, privy and oil house were destroyed multiple times. By 1875, the dwelling perched in the tower had suffered so much abuse at the hands of the hurricanes that it to had to be replaced using a $20,000 appropriation made by Congress in 1874. As the bolts used to hold the dwelling together were thoroughly rusted, much cutting was required to remove the old structure before it could be replaced with a new, heavier one. During the periods between hurricanes when sand built back up around the lighthouse, thousands of terns congregated on Sand Key to nest. Eggs were found to be quite tasty and the light housekeepers would collect him by the basket full to deliver to their friends in Key West. At one point, it was reported that nine to 12,000 birds used to nest on Sand Key, but so many eggs were taken only two or 300 young ones hatched. On neighboring islands, birds would be killed by plume hunter seeking fancy feathers to adorn ladies hats. Eventually, Sand Key Lighthouse came under control of the Coast Guard. The light was automated and the dwelling on that lighthouse was vacated on June 1, 2017. The Sand Key Lighthouse was deemed access by the Coast Guard and was made available under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act to eligible entities. And it was today, January the 9, 1827, that construction began on the first lighthouse on Sand Key. It was completed in 70 days. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. You can find out more about our glorious past by visiting http://43keys.com. You can also get this show as well as others as an Alexa flash briefing. Just tell Alexa "play Today in Key West history as my flash briefing." You can also get this show and others on YouTube and visit http://43keys.com for more interesting information about our beautiful Florida Keys.
7 minutes | Jan 9, 2019
January 8, 1828 - Key West Is Incorporated as a City
Key West, like the other Florida Keys, began as a coral forest under the sea water. Marine life was its only population as the polar ice caps reformed and the sea level dropped. Terrestrial plant and animal life found its way. Soil was formed by decaying organic matter and storm actions. For millenniums the ocean continued to drop and the ocean currents, wind currents, birds and other things began to propagate the islands. Eventually, human life forms also found their way. These trillions of cells of life form along with the forces of nature produced an island called "Cayo Hueso" by early Spanish travelers. We're not really sure where the word "key" came from as a reference to an island. Most believe that it began by the Spanish adapting the word Cayo from the Tiano Indians of Hispaniola and Cuba. Referring to small islands, the Spanish normally used "isla" for Island and "islet" for small island. At least in the new world, they appear to us Cayo and Cayhuelo for a very small island. The English use Cay or Kay such as Cay Sal Banks. Cay is pronounced by Americans as the letter K, but by Englishman as the word key. The native Aborigines and subsequent native groups were the first settlers of Key West. The Europeans were tourists. For the first 300 odd years of historic existence, Europeans stopped for fresh water on the islands, which stood as silent as the martyrs for which they were first named. The silence was broken occasionally by those seeking refuge from being shipped wrecked, to fish, to lumber, to salvage. Other than the Native Americans, apparently no one settled permanently. Until about the time Florida became a United States territory in 1821, the history of Key West is much like the rest of the Keys until 1821. Its natural deepwater port was the deepest port between New Orleans and Norfolk, Virginia. Key West quickly became the economic center, was rapidly settled, and became Florida's largest populated city. It had professional residents, such as doctors, lawyers, insurance company representatives, politicians, military personnel, journalists, publishers, and most of whom, by vocation, make some written documentation. These documentations has made Key West history easier to be true history and not just a fable. Politically, Key West was Monroe County. In population alone, it overwhelmed all of the remaining Keys for about a century and a half. From a historian's point of view Key West is an interesting beginning. To be considered is the island's ownership - as private property ownership by the territory of Florida, ownership by the US government and finally, as a local incorporated entity. John W. Simonton purchased the island on January 19, 1822, from Don Pablo Salas, who had acquired it as a Spanish land grant in 1815, from Don Juan de Estrada. But as a new US territory, the original Don Juan de Estrada land grant to Salas had to be confirmed. No US Deed could be granted. In reality, it went round and round with claims and counterclaims and attempts to follow these just look like a spider web connecting one thing to another. John Simonton soon took on three northern partners - John Whitehead, John Fleming and Pardon Green. On the scene arrived General John Gettis of Charleston, who'd also purchased Key West. It was actually discovered that Don Juan Salas had sold it twice. First, to John Strong, a lawyer no less, and then to Simonton. Simonton had already divided amongst the three - Whitehead, Fleming, and Green. Green had made several strategic moves by buying up claims in his name. And on May 23, 1828, Congress acknowledged the land grant of Salus was confirmed and Simonton as the legal owner. We might surmise that this was Florida's first land scam. And as amazing as it legally appears, the territory of Florida with an act of incorporation incorporated the city of Key West. It was also incorporated a second time on November 29 of 1828 as a town. So Key West was incorporated twice, once as a city and once as a town. Location. Location. Location is the cry of any good businessman and the Federal Wrecking Act prescribed that all property wrecked in US water had to be taken to a US port of entry. 1828 was a pivotal year for the Keys. In 1828, Key West was designated a port of entry. Key West grew from a desolated Island into a bustling city. Within a few years. Congress acknowledged Simonton as the owner of Key West and Key West incorporated twice. Congress created the Superior Court of the Southern District with Admiralty power. Judge James Webb was its first judge, but his successor William Marvin will be the most remembered. He authored the Law of Wreck and Salvage and later was Provisional Governor of Florida at the close of the Civil War. In 1832, Key West reverted to a charter type city government. But it was today, January 8, 1828, that Key West was first incorporated as a city. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West history is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our glorious past here on the Florida Keys and even what's going on now in the Florida Keys, visit http://43keys.com. You can get this program as well as others as an Alexa flash briefing. Just tell Alexa "play today in Key West history as my flash briefing". You can also see "Today in Key West History" and other shows on YouTube. Search for them and subscribe there and in the meantime, visit http://43keys.com.
4 minutes | Dec 26, 2018
Key West History: December 26, 1923 - Reward Offered for Vandals of Yards in Key West
The Key West Citizen has received so many complaints recently about the willful destruction of plants and flowers in yards in the city, that it has decided to reward $25 for the arrest and conviction of anybody for committing such vandalism. A woman resident who used many hours of her time and beautifying her yard had so many of her plants broken or torn up a few days ago, she was mortified to tears when she viewed the destruction. Whoever broke the plants or pulled them up was prompted to do so by sheer devilry, by the hankering to destroy because none of the plants were stolen but were left instead strewn about the yard. "What is the use of my wasting time to plant", the woman said. "when my labor of days and weeks is destroyed in a few minutes by some vandal. I love trees plants and flowers but I'm disgusted sometimes, by the way, they are destroyed. I feel like pledging myself not to plant another thing." In several other parts of the city, similar reports have been made to The Citizen by residents. Some of them said they have seen not only children but grown ups also reach over into a yard and tear a limb off a Croton or some other beautiful plant. And in the case of some boys, they poked fun at the owner of a yard when they were reprimanded for breaking a plant or pulling it up. "The whole trouble," a resident said today, "is because many residents of Key West have not been used to open yards, to seeing growing things within their reach, and not touching them. And it seems to me that the best way to teach them to respect the property of others, as represented in plants and trees and flowers is to arrest a few of them and find them and send them to jail. What's the use of preaching about pulling down fences to modernize the yards, if the growing things in the yards are to be destroyed by every Tom, Dick, and Harry? It's beyond me, and trying to understand how anybody except a bit of a child, of course, can have the heart to go into somebody's yard and tear his plants to pieces. Yet it is done day in and day out in Key West and the doers are not the smaller children that good size boys and girls and sometimes grown people." It is in the hopes of stopping that class of vandalism and to promote the growth of plants, trees, flowers and roses in Key West that The Citizen decided today to offer the reward. The reward is not confined to members of the police force. It will be given to anyone who's information leads to the arrest and conviction of a person for destroying plant life and any yard in the city. Many of the small trees, so it has been reported, that were planted throughout the city during the tree planting campaign conducted by the Chamber of Commerce have had tender shoots torn off of them and have been broken in two our been pulled up altogether. The Citizen hopes that all Key Westers who wish to see the city further beautified by the planting of trees and flowers will join in the movement to put an end to the destruction of them. And it was today, December the 25th, 1923, that the Key West Citizen offered a reward of $25 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of guilty yard vandals. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To find out about our glorious or devilish past, visit http://43keys.com. You can also get this program as well as others as an Alexa flash briefing. Just tell Alexa, "Hey Alexa, play Today in Key West History as my flash briefing."
5 minutes | Dec 25, 2018
Key West History: Dec. 24, 1923 - Key West Declared a Port of Real Consequence
On December the 24th, 1923, this quote appeared in the Tampa Tribune. "Tampa is the nearest port of any real consequence in the United States to the Panama Canal." Soon after, there was a rebuttal printed in the Key West Citizen. "Either the tribune is ignorant of the fact that Key West is nearer to the Panama Canal than Tampa or is deliberately misrepresenting the fact or does not consider Key West a part of any real consequence. Let us consider those suppositions in order. If the tribune is ignorant of the fact then let it enjoy its bliss without molestation. If it made the statement deliberately, it should be ashamed of itself from misleading its readers, loyal Tampans included, if it does not consider the port of Key West to have any real consequence. It's easy enough to prove that it is a far more consequence than Tampa by quoting the last report of the customs district of Florida, the headquarters of which is in Tampa, though it should be in Key West. Covering the exports for the month of August, as it concerns Tampa and Key West. Here's how it is: Tampa $414,206 Key West $3,334,635 Now, a pupil in the lower grades of the public schools can easily figure out that the exports from Key West during August were more than eight times as large as those from Tamp. In view of that fact issued by the customs inspector in Tampa itself, and then view of the further fact that the greatness of a country depends in a large measurement on the volume of its exports, the port of Key West is at least eight times of greater consequence than the port of Tampa. True the Tampa Tribune may say that the goods that are shipped from this port come from all over the country. But isn't the same thing just as true of any other part of the United States? Have any real consequence that the port of Key West was chosen as the most logical one through which to ship the goods goes to prove how great is its importance in the estimation of the shippers who use it as the port of exportation that the port of Key West was chosen as the most logical one through which to ship goods goes to prove how great is its importance, in the estimation of the shippers who use it as a port of exportation. Were Tampa considered as good a port from which to ship the goods, it would not be so far down in the scale as a port of exportation, but indeed would be running neck and neck with Key West, instead of being less than one eighth of importance. The last few years, there has seemed to be an unexpected understanding among the newspapers of Florida to give every city in the state its rightful due, which was a decided step forward in the ernstwhile practice of claiming the world with the proverbial fence around it in an attempt to boost a town. The editor of the tribune known and has known for years that Key West is nearer to the Panama Canal than Tampa, so what was his motive and casting the surreptitious slur at Key West? Did he think that it would help Tampa the expense of Key West? Or did he really think that the port of Key West was not of any real consequence? Of course, we don't pretend to answer those questions for him. But had he read the reports issued by the collector of customs in Tampa, month after month during year after year, he would not have failed to know the exports from the port of Key West have always been greater than the exports from all of the other ports of Florida combined. The distance from Key West to the Panama Canal is 1083 miles while the distance from Tampa is 1290 miles in other words, Key West a real port of consequence is 207 miles nearer the Panama Canal than Tampa. So, it was today December the 24th, 1923, the Key West was declared a port of real consequence. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To find out all about our glorious past and what's going on right now in the beautiful Florida Keys visit http://43keys.com. You can also get this program as well as others as an Alexa flash briefing. Just tell Alexa, "Hey Alexa, play today in Key West History as my flash briefing."
5 minutes | Dec 24, 2018
Key West History: Josè Marti Arrived for His First Visit to Key West
José Martí was born in Havana to Spanish immigrants in 1853. From a young age, he dedicated himself to the Cuban struggle for independence. During his life he visited Tampa 20 times, a place with strong ties to Cuba where he consolidated drive and advocacy to bring change to Cuba. Martí attended university in Spain and studied law and philosophy. He published his first newspaper, La Patria Libre (The Free Fatherland), in 1869 and later El presidio político en Cuba (The Political Prison in Cuba), a protest against the abuse in Cuban prisons. He moved to New York in 1881, where he resided for the next 11 years. Well-versed in Spanish literature, Martí wrote poems, essays, books, English translations of novels and journal articles. He also informed readers of major events and life in the United States in Spanish-language newspapers as an admirer of the country’s vigor, industry and Constitution. Besides his literary prestige, Martí became known as a Cuban national hero and was invited to speak at Ybor City’s revolutionary clubs. In November 1891, he arrived to Tampa from New York via the Henry B. Plant railroad. He delivered two of his most famous speeches at El Liceo Cubano (The Cuban Lyceum), Vincente Martínez Ybor’s first cigar factory converted into a theatre, on 13th Street and 7th Avenue. That site became the headquarters of his visits. Martí's speeches were published and read in cigar factories throughout Tampa and Key West. In both cities, he united different factions under a common cause—Cuban independence. Martí loved Tampa and its people, and called the city “El Pueblo Fiel” (The Faithful Town). In 1892, he founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party and drafted its basic principles in Tampa. His compelling oratory raised money for the Cuban Independence Movement, and cigar workers offered a portion of their wages to the mission. Martí and other Cuban insurrectionists were received by Tampa Mayor Herman Glogowski, who transported them from City Hall across the new Lafayette Street Bridge in his carriage to see the newly dedicated Tampa Bay Hotel. He was also hosted at the Pedroso House on 13th Street and 8th Avenue, the current location of Parque Amigos de José Martí (Friends of José Martí Park). After celebrating his 40th birthday, Martí paid seven visits to cigar factories in Ybor City and held meetings and fundraisers at El Liceo Cubano. The growing number of cigar manufacturers in the city increased financial support for his endeavor. Among Martí's friends in Tampa elected to City Council were Ramon Rubiera de Armas, Emilio Pons, Candido Martínez Ybor and Ramon Rivero y Rivero. Rivero is noted for having introduced Martí at his speeches, but also for his work as the publisher of many local Cuban patriotic newspapers, such as La Revista de Florida and El Critico de Ybor City. The Cubans in Tampa frequently traveled back and forth between the city and their homeland. Martí listened to his compatriots’ grievances and reports about the atrocities of Spanish colonial reign, which made Tampa a safe haven to openly discuss their objections and desire to overthrow Spanish regime. While in New York, a few days after his 42nd birthday Martí signed the order of uprising against Spain. He then directed his secretary Gonzalo de Quesada to deliver it to Fernando Figueredo Socarrás, West Tampa’s first mayor. Socarrás requested cigar magnate O’Halloran to roll the decree into a cigar, which Quesada (later Cuba’s first U.S. ambassador) carried to Key West on Henry B. Plant’s steamship. There, Quesada handed the cigar to another courier who took it to Cuba aboard Plant’s steamer and gave it to Juan Gualberto Gomez. Gomez opened the loaded West Tampa cigar with Martí's instructions and ordered Cuban insurrectionists to initiate the War of Independence, which began on February 24, 1895. Martí arrived in Cuba shortly afterward, but was killed in a small skirmish on May 19. Martí’s “Cuba Libre!” (“Free Cuba!”) dream was ultimately fulfilled on May 20, 1902, when the country obtained independence. Several effigies of Martí are scattered throughout Ybor City, including busts and a statue which stands in José Martí Park.
5 minutes | Dec 22, 2018
Key West History: Dec. 21, 1975 - Key West Aloe Opened It's New Store and Factory
While vacationing in Key West in the 1960’s with his partner, Joe Lizska, Frank Romano made the terrible mistake of falling asleep on the beach. It’s a mistake many tourists to Key West make, not realizing how much closer Key West is to the equator than the mainland, and how much faster you get sunburned at this latitude. By the time Frank woke up, he could barely move without terrible pain. His entire chest was completely burned and he could barely move, let alone put on a shirt. Another local beachgoer happened to see Frank struggling in pain when he woke up, and told him he had just the remedy for his sunburn. Frank and his new friend made their way back to the local’s home and the man promptly went out to the garden and cut 2 stalks of his aloe plant and promptly filleted them and rubbed the aloe juice all over Frank’s chest. By the next morning, there was no sign of Frank’s sunburn and he was flabbergasted. He couldn’t believe that a plant could perform such a miracle on his skin, and set his wheels in motion. If this plant could do that to his damaged skin, what could it do for healthy skin. Later Frank and Joe moved to Key West and started the Key West Fragrance and Cosmetic factory. They used aloe in all of their products and for years, Frank was the chief chemist and could be see in the shop window mixing and measuring potions on Front St. Frank and Joe adjusted well to life on the island. They grew their business and their circle of friends. One October day, Joe came home and told Frank he needed to show him something. Frank went along as Joe took him down to Duval St. Standing on one end of Duval St. Joe asked Frank what he saw. Frank really wasn’t sure what he was supposed to see. He saw some boarded up shops and that was about it. Joe asked him, “do you see any people walking?” Frank said no. “Do you see any cars driving up the street?” Again, Frank said no. At this point Joe began to paint a picture. Here they were in Paradise where the weather was still warm, but once the summer vacation tourists left the island, not much happened until the snowbirds returned for the winter. Because of this lull in tourists, it caused the island to go into a shutdown mode. Many businesses closed up and found business in other parts of the country where they still had customers. May employees of the businesses were laid off and had no work during this time. Joe had realized that they needed some sort of festival or event that could be put on to bring tourists to the island during this low season.They gathered their friends, Bill Conkle and Tony Falcone, who owned Fast Buck Freddie’s and they put a plan into motion. The next October, the first Fantasy Fest was held and they had a parade with 12 floats that had been beautifully decorated. Some 5000 tourists came to the island that year for Fantasy Fest. The event has continued each year and grown into an international event, with people flying in from all over to enjoy the adult themed celebration. It was today, December 20, 1975 1975: Key West Fragrance and Cosmetic celebrated its fourth anniversary by opening their new store and factory at Greene and Simonton streets. In four years, the company had grown from two employees, Frank Romano and Joe Liska, to two stores and 36 employees in Key West plus nine other shops in Florida and one in Haiti. If you visit Key West today, you can still visit this company, now renamed Key West Aloe by stopping by their store on Duval St at Duval Square. And that’s what happened today in Key West History. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our beautiful Florida Keys, visit http://43keys.com. you can also get this program as an Alexa Flash briefing. Just tell Alexa to play Today in Key West history as your Flash Briefing.
4 minutes | Dec 21, 2018
Key West History: Dec. 20, 1996 - Key West's Grand Dame and Matriarch Dies
By the early 1970s, when the fabrics and designs of Lilly Pulitzer were retail and media darlings, Tony Falcone started coming to Key West with his partner, Bill Conkle. Eventually, they decided to open up a store. It was called Fast Buck Freddie's and it was on Key West's main drag, Duval street. They opened at a time when many other stores on Duval Street were closing. They tapped into the new chic money that was just starting to discover Key West, with it's fabulous old houses built in its late 19th century heyday, and supplied housewares for all of those renovations. But in the summer all the business died and Falcone says they would not have made it through except for local matriarch, Mary Spottswood. "She would come in and buy everythin - wine glasses, placements and tons of housewares that she didn't even need." She did it only to try and keep us alive. Falcone said, "she would come in, we had a long table and a big fan chair behind it, and then some stools in front of it. And she would just come in and just sit and talk to us for hours." Well, that was classic Mary Spottswood. Mary and her husband John lived at 531 Caroline Street in what is known today as the John M. Spottswood House. They moved into the house in the 1940's and she raised her three sons and a daughter there. Mary's grandchildren are now seventh generation conchs! Mary was active in the community. She was involved in the Montessori School and was always taking on charitable endeavors. She was a member of the Laureate Delta chapter of Beta Sigma Phi and she opened her home to many other charitable organizations and social events were continually being held at the Spottswood home. The society pages of the newspaper during the 1980's were full of mentions of all the charitable deeds of Mary Spottswood. She was a longtime friend and supporter of Bayview Manor. She was a hospitable woman and she loved doing things for other people. She was constantly involved in fundraising for organizations in town that were closest to her heart. In the 1960's John Spottswood began his first foray into real estate development with the purchase of the Casa Marina and La Concha hotels. John and Mary Spottswood also became friends with Harry and Bess Truman. You'll remember that Harry Truman spent many vacations as president in Key West and John s and Mary Spottswood were some of the people that were frequently at dinner together with Harry and Bess Truman. It's not every day that you can live on a tiny island and yet still be friends and dinner companions with the most powerful man in the world. You can find reminders of Mary Spottswood all over Key West and even at the Mary abnd John Spottswood Waterfront Park located in the city. And it was today December the 20th, 1996, that Mary Spottswood, the island's grand dame, matriarch and First Lady died at the age of 73. Her late husband John had been Sheriff of the county, a state senator, and also started Cable Vision, one of the first cable systems in the country. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. If you want to learn more about Key West history and the people who put it on the map, visit http://43keys.com. You can get this program as well as others as an Alexa flash briefing. Just tell Alexa, "Play today in Key West history as my flash briefing."
4 minutes | Dec 18, 2018
Today in Key West History - Dec. 18, 1955 - The Ferry from Key West to Havana Completed Testing
Now, more than 50 years after Fidel Castro's takeover of Cuba it remains a mysterious forbidden and a foreign place. Few of us can picture a time when Cuba was a friendly neighbor of the United States, and a place for a quick weekend getaway. When Flagler's train reached Key West in 1912, some of the trains were loaded onto 300 foot long barges to continue on to Havana for gambling and exotic rum drinks, especially after Prohibition too hold in 1920. Even up through the late 50's though, a car ferry service ran from Key West with a connection for freight in West Palm Beach. So, you could just saunter down to Key West and your car drive to Stock Island and catch the ferry, which was operated by the West India Fruit and Steamship Company. The ferry left Key West on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am. The SS Havana could accommodate 500 passengers and 125 cars. Arrival in Havana was at 6pm, so the crossing took about seven hours. The fare was $13.50 one way or $26 round trip. Now if you convert that to today's dollars, that's over $200 for the trip. The ship then left Havana for the trip back to Key West at 10am, so you were back in Key West by 5pm. The ship was air conditioned and it offered snack bars, lounges, a gift shop and small day cabins. As relations with Cuba eroded in 1959, with the trade embargo emerging in 1960, the ferry service ceased and the ships were sold off in 1961. In recent decades, direct travel between Key West and Havana has been at its lowest point in almost 200 years. Yet with developments in the current political climates, some efforts are being made to reconnect these islands in the stream. One such effort is being led by Stock Island Marina village in Key West. It has the largest deep water marina in the Florida Keys and it's only 100 miles from Havana. The Marine village is investing in new infrastructure and services to accommodate international yachts and cruisers, as they make their way south in the pristine waters of Cuba. And perhaps one day in the not too distant future, We'll see these two islands connected once again. And it was today, December the 18th 1955, that the West India Fruit and Steamship Company's Key West to Havana ferry completed testing in the Chesapeake Bay. The "City of Havana" was a 472 foot former Navy LSD that was converted to an automobile passenger ferry by the Newport News Dry Dock and Shipbuilding company. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our amazing and glorious past here in the Florida Keys or what's currently going on, please visit http://43keys.com. You can also get this program, as well as others, as an Alexa flash briefing. Just tell Alexa, "Hey Alexa, play Today in Key West History as my flash briefing."
5 minutes | Dec 18, 2018
December 17, 1899 - More than a Year After The Sinking of the Maine, Bodies of Victims Were Recovered By the Military
The night seemed like any other. It was February 15th and the crew of the battleship Maine had been dispatched to Havana. In the evening, they were riding quietly at anchor in the Havana Harbor, everyone going about their duties and minding their own business, when suddenly at 9:40pm out of nowhere an explosion happened and tore out the bottom of the ship and sank the entire ship, killing 260 of nearly 400 men on board. By the time the sun rose the next morning, only the twisted parts of the superstructure were visible above the water. Small boats were called in to examine the damage and try to rescue any of the injured. When the Maine had approached Cuba, it was flying the flag of Cuba. This was during a time when the Spanish regime was resisting the uprising of the nationalist guerillas in Cuba. We're not for sure what happened and what actually caused the blast that killed 260 men and destroyed the battleship Maine, but we believe from all evidence that it was the consequence of a mine explosion. No one's ever taken responsibility for it, but after that it did start the brief Spanish American War of 1898. The United States was pushing for Cuban independence, the Spaniards were trying to crush the uprising. After the incident, the United States declared war on Spain on April 25, and Congress authorized the official declaration of war against the Spaniards. By the time May 1, had rolled around an American fleet in Manila Bay in the Philippines had annihilated an entire Spanish fleet in short order. We lost no men and only had seven wounded soldiers from this conflict, but we handily declared victory. It was in June of 1898, that the American expeditionary forces landed in Santiago, Cuba. Our troops were sweating in their heavy woollen uniforms, which were thoughtfully issued to help protect them from the cold. It was in that year that the soldiers were also eating what was called "embalmed beef" out of the tin cans. You know, we may have lost more soldiers to "embalmed beef" than we actually did to war. On July 1 of that year, Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders also were able to capture the city of Santiago, which surrendered on the 17th, the Spanish Cuban fleet was hunted down by the American battleships and completely destroyed within four hours. After that, American troops sailed off to Puerto Rico, and the Spanish government called for peace. It was during those years that far more Americans were killed by "embalmed beef" or tropical diseases like typhoid, yellow fever, and malaria, than were actually killed in the course of battle. It was December of that year that a peace treaty between the United States and Spain was finally signed, Spain lost all of its colonies in the new world. The United States took control of the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. Cuba gained independence and Theodore Roosevelt who was then the Secretary of the Navy earned a heroes reputation and it was that "embalmed beef" in the tin that also inspired the first Food and Drug Act. So mind you, this was all happening at the end of the year in 1898. Upon further investigation, it was determined that the commander of the Maine, Captain Charles D. Sigsbee did no wrong in the loss of life and the subsequent explosion that cost him all of his men and the ship that night in Havana harbor. And even though all of this happened in 1898, it wasn't until today, December 17, 1899, that the USS Texas captained by Charles D. Sigsbee, be who is the same commander that lost the Maine sailed back into Havana harbor to claim the bodies of the victims of the Maine disaster and bring them back to Arlington National Cemetery for a proper military burial. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media to learn more about our glorious past here in the Florida Keys, visit http://43keys.com. You can make this and other programs an Alexa flash briefing. For you to enable that just simply tell Alexa, "Hey Alexa, play today in Key West history as my flash briefing."
4 minutes | Dec 15, 2018
December 15 - The Underwater Cable System Connection Key West to Havana was Started
From much of its early history, Key West stood in relative isolation due to the lack of regular mail service to the island, and the sporadic nature of the shipping supply channels which could easily be affected by storms and less than desirable weather. It wasn't until the end of the Civil War in this country that some enterprising businessmen decided to develop the undersea cable system to connect the US to other countries for Telegraph and Telephone calls. When the practicality of this type of communication was discovered, that's whenever people were on board to make it happen. The underwater cable system connecting Key West to Cuba officially began construction in 1867, the submarine cables were laid by boat crews in six different sections. The cable was laid in up to 1000 feet of water in the waters of the Florida Straights and connected Key West to Havana. There are several historic cable huts still visible around Key West. One of the more well preserved huts, sits near the Southernmost Point. Another less preserved example is able to be seen in the area of the Mallory Square dock. Some efforts have been made to preserve these historic cable huts. It wasn't until this underwater cable system was installed that the United States was finally able to be connected to another country for this type of communication. In 1867, after the first section was laid, Key West Mayor E.O. Gwynn and the Captain-General of Cuba Joaquin del Manzano exchanged greetings over the wire. Now that communication could be made with the outside world, it was quite expensive to actually utilize the service. Initially, Congress had limited the cost of a telegram to $3.50 cents for each 10 words. Imagine that! Eventually, the cost of a telegraph to Havana cost $4 in gold, by 1870. Additional underwater cable lines were added to the system in 1871, 1873, 1875, 1919 and 1927. At the height of the communications boom for Key West there were six different lines that connected the island to various locations. Between shipping mishaps, hurricanes and the harsh marine environment, the cables were constantly having to be repaired and replaced. The underwater cable system remained in use until the last segment connecting Key West to Havana failed in 1987. And it was today, December 15th, 1930, that the German cable ship Neptun started laying a new telephone cable to Cuba. The Key West end of the cable landed at the foot of Waddell Street. The cable was jointly owned by American Telephone and Telegraph Company and the Cuban Telephone Company. This was the fourth cable between Key West and Havana. The ship to two days to complete the cables to Havana. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our glorious and historical past visit http://43keys.com. This program, as well as others, are also available as an Alexa flash briefing. Just tell Alexa to "play Today in Key West History as my flash briefing."
5 minutes | Dec 14, 2018
December 14 - The Contract for the Building of the Key West Custom House was Awarded
As Key West became increasingly wealthy, the four story architectural marvel known as the Custom House was built, and it is a perfect example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. It's easily one of the most beautiful buildings in Key West and the crown jewel of the island. Despite the difficulties and delays in construction, the Custom House opened in April of 1891. Built at a total cost of $107,955 - and that was almost $30,000 over the budget. The Key West climate took an immediate toll on the building and the salty air eroded parts of it. The Hurricanes of 1909, 1910, and 1920 caused considerable damage to the brick building. The new building housed Key Wesr customs offices, the District Court and the post office. When it first opened, the building was occupied on the first floor by the postal and custom services, with the second floor containing the courtroom and court offices, while the lighthouse inspector and other government officials were housed on the third floor. During its prime the Custom House heard thousands of cases and judgments ranging from rum runners to ship salvaging claims. The most significant proceedings dealt with the sinking of the US Maine in Havana Harbor, which ultimately led to the Spanish American War. As the decades passed, the Customs House saw a decrease in use. In the 1930s, the customs offices, the District Court and the post office all moved to new facilities. The Navy moved some of its personnel into the building into a utilitarian office space, they dropped the ceiling and turned the large gracious rooms into small functional offices. The beautifully arched wrap-around porch was also enclosed to create additional workspace. Despite the fact that in 1973, the Custom House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Navy eventually decided to abandon the building. With all of its former tenants relocated, the Custom House was sealed, fenced off and left a feral cats, transients and just general decay. In 1976, after being declared a Historic Custom House by the Treasury Department, the structures ownership title was given to the city of Key West. Throughout the 1980s, the custom houses future remained in doubt. Various plans were drafted, which saw the historic building being converted into a yacht club and at one point even to an upscale resort. Ultimately after being sold in 1991 to the Florida Land Acquisition Advisory Council. The Key West Art and Historical Society undertook the restoration of the dilapidated building. In 1993, historic renovations began on the building under the supervision of lead architect Bert Bender. What had originally cost less than $110,000 to build in four years, now cost nearly $9 million to renovate over nine years. Restoration of the building followed historical preservation guidelines and used original construction materials. The building required modernization in order to accommodate a public museum and offices. This required the installation of additional stairwells and elevator, temperature control climates, archival rooms, offices and facilities to accommodate over 300,000 visitors a year. With restorations completed in 1999, the Key West Art and Historical Society reopened the beautiful Custom House as the crown jewel of Key West And it was today December the 14th, 1888, that the contract for the Custom House at the end of Whitehead Street was awarded. The structure was completed three years later and occupied in the latter part of 1891. And that's what happened today in Key West history. Today in Key West was History is brought to you by 43 Keys Media. To learn more about our glorious past here on the Florida Keys and our future visit http://43keys.com. This program as well as others are also available as an Alexa flash briefing. Just tell Alexa to "play today in Key West history as my flash briefing."
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