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Today in Key West History

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Key West and the surrounding Florida Keys are rich in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. Each day holds a new opportunity to learn about the significant historical events that happened in Key West and the Florida Keys. These bite sized podcasts are a great way to brush up on your historical facts about this beautiful coral cay archipelago that we call Paradise!

Key West and the surrounding Florida Keys are rich in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. Each day holds a new opportunity to learn about the significant historical events that happened in Key West and the Florida Keys. These bite sized podcasts are a great way to brush up on your historical facts about this beautiful coral cay archipelago that we call Paradise!
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Key West and the surrounding Florida Keys are rich in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. Each day holds a new opportunity to learn about the significant historical events that happened in Key West and the Florida Keys. These bite sized podcasts are a great way to brush up on your historical facts about this beautiful coral cay archipelago that we call Paradise!






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...


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...


December 13 - Key Deer Were Hunted on Big Pine Key

On December 13, 1928, this small paragraph appeared in the Key West Citizen. "The Turtelino hunting crowd killed a large deer yesterday on No Name Key. The deer was killed by Eddie Marquez and weighed 90 pounds. Marquez is is the latest one of the crowd to meet success in the hunting expeditions carried our by the Turtelino Organization." When I saw this paragraph, this one paragraph it made me sick to think about our beautiful key deer being stalked and hunted. So it sent me searching to...


December 12 - Key West Had the Only English Wesleyan Methodist Church in the United States.

The congregation was originally known as the "Gulf of Mexico Mission with Cayo Hueso". The local history informs us that it was Reverend George Lister, who established the mission in Key West. It was seen as vital to extending the English Wesleyan Methodism to Cuba. While missionaries were sent to Cuba, the overall effort did not produce the hoped for results. Because Catholicism was firmly entrenched in Cuba, and Methodism, was unable to gain many converts. The congregation in Key West...


December 11 - The Search for Hoffa Comes to Key West!

On December the 9, 1961, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa was in Key West inspecting the once grand Casa Marina hotel. It was a hotel that the Teamsters had recently acquired. He later least the hotel to the US military, and it was used for military housing. Less than a year later, on November 26, 1962, when JFK was in Key West. His motorcade went by the Casa Marina so he could see where the military was housed. Not really sure the historical records don't reflect whether JFK knew that the...


December 10 - Norman Sherwood Becomes The First Prisoner is Hanged from the Gallows in Key West

Norma Sherwood has the distinction of being the first man to the west. Sherwood had an altercation with a man named Jones on the 5th of July in 1830. After they were separated, he went away but returned in an hour with the pistol, allowing his intention of killing Jones bystanders interfered and induced him to leave, but he returned shortly still determined to kill Jones, Mr. JOHN Wilson, who was Sherwood's friend and partner then stepped up and asked him to give up the pistol. He...


December 9 - The Shark Processing Industry Comes to Big Pine Key

Joe Whalton recalls that a visit to the shark camp on Big Pine Key was a favorite activity during his boyhood stays at a nearby family vacation retreat. "The place was close enough that we could see it and smell it. There were times it was really ripe. A whole bunch of us would pull our schull a boat up to watch them skin the sharks. Sometimes, we got in the way, but the workers most of them blacks were real nice. They would never holler at us and they got a kick out of watching us dig out...


December 8 - Fernando Joaquin Moreno Was Elected Mayor of Key West

There's nothing but saying there today. But 140 years ago, nearly 300 Africans were buried on what is now Higgs beach victims of slavery. It was 1858 and us warships had been ordered to enforce the anti slave trade laws. Five ships patrolled the Florida straits or slave merchants, for the tobacco and sugar fields of Cuba and Puerto Rico maintained vigorous commerce for human cargo with several African coastal states and principalities, including the king of the African state of Dahomey. At...


December 7 - Reap The Wild Wind Author Moves Near the Southernmost Point

As the film opens, Loxie Claiborne is running a marine salvage business started by her deceased father. A hurricane is passing through the Key West area leaving behind at least one wreck on the nearby shoals. The Jubilee founders and Loxie and other salvagers race to claim the cargo. Not arriving first, Loxie and her crew rescue the Captain jack Stewart, but do not share in the salvage rights. Apparently the first salver on the scene, King Cutler may have actually planned the wreck. Nursing...

December 6 - Blue Angels Announce Key West as Their Winter Training Destination

At the end of World War II Chief Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to keep the public interested in naval aviation. In a short three months, the naval flight exhibit team performed at its first flight demonstration on June 15, 1946 at their home base, Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. Lieutenant Commander Roy "Butch" Boris led the team and flew the Grumman F6- F5 Hellcat. The new Navy flight exhibition team was only the...


December 5 - Artist Henry Faulkner Dies at the Hands of a Drunk Driver

Today's nugget of Key West history comes to us from a blog post by artist, Anja Marais. I'm living on a quaint lane in Old Town Key West for the last six years in a wooden Victorian house. My first impression walking in as a tenant to be was the good feeling that just oozed out of the Dade County pine standing strong like a ship on land. It already embarked on a journey a long time ago, and I just happened to board on one of its many pit stops. I would come across small odd clues and...


December 4 - Eduardo H. Gato Died in Havana, Cuba

The first Gato cigar factory is a three story building constructed in 1870, the first for the fact that was used for receiving tobacco and distributing scars. The second story consisted of rows and rows of benches, and rolling tables, where workers produced a wide range of cigars in front of the workers was a raised lectern for a reader. This reader was paid by the factory workers to be books, poetry, and daily newspapers. While they work on the third floor, the tobacco was both stored and...


December 2 - The Cuban Boat Lift from Matanzas Bay Ended

In 1965, Fidel Castro, facing growing political unrest, and widespread economic problems, seize the initiative on refugees by manipulating US immigration policy to his advantage, knowing that the US open door policy made it politically awkward if not impossible to refuse refugees from Cuba, Castro announced that exiled Cubans could pick up relatives wishing to immigrate at the port of Camarioca in Matanzas, Cuba. Castro's unilateral opening worked and the United States welcomed some 5000...


Nov. 29 - The Start of Something Beautiful Called Casa Roma

A few days ago, I came across a historic fact mentioning that today, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was staying at the Casa Roma Motel as he recuperated from cancer. I’d never heard of the Casa Roma Motel and became curious as to why I could not find much information about this old and historic property. I began digging and could only find scant mentions of the Casa Roma Motel in the newspaper archives. Then today, Nov. 29th, in the Key West Citizen, one of the historical events...


Tuesday, Nov. 27 - Dr. Joseph Yates Porter Ends the Yellow Fever Quarantine

Yellow Fever, also known as the yellow plague, or the yellow jack was one of the most dangerous and dreaded disease is prevalent in Florida. During the 1800s, the diseases viral and we now know that it's spread primarily by a certain type of mosquito, but this wasn't known back then. And in the meantime, we had huge epidemics that broke out in Florida, mainly during the summer months, but especially in the cities with no good understanding of how the disease was caused or spread. Floridians...


Nov. 26 - The Biggest and Richest City in Florida - Welcome to Key West

Location, location, location. It's the cry of any good businessman. In 1825, the Federal wrecking act prescribed that all property record in US waters be taken to a US port of entry. It was in 1828, that Key West was designated one of these us ports of entries. POS grew from a desolate Island into a bustling city within just a few years. Eventually Congress acknowledge Simonton as the owner of the island and Key West incorporated twice, once as a city, and then as a town, Congress created...


Nov. 24 - Alligator Reef Lighthouse Opens

In 1822, just two years out of the shipyard, the Navy schooner was on rounds to recapture and free ships that were taken in the pirate heavy seas of the Caribbean. And alligator reef, a notoriously difficult area to navigate, the young ship ran aground. The semen struggled desperately to save it, but eventually they had to give up the ship to keep it out of pirate hands, they stripped it of all salvageable material and set it on fire. The ship soon blew up, leaving only shards and flotsam...


Nov. 20 - Skiing to Cuba

Prior to September 10, 1978, the furthest training run that Charles McCoy had ever under taken was a successful 80 mile non-stop crossing to the Dry Tortugas. That run took him 3 hours and 55 minutes. But on Sept. 10th, 1978, his successful crossing to Cuba from Key West of over 110 miles took 6 hours and 10 minutes. He started that trip in calm seas that built to four and five feet over the course of the day. Through most of the trip, he used an ax handle for a tow bar and he used a 10...


Nov. 19 - Charles Parra Gets Elected to City Commission in a Runoff Election

On Tuesday, February 10, 1942 on the front page of the Key West citizen, there's a small article talking about the local labor union.Now the labor union in question was the local Mason and bricklayers union. There was some elections that were being held for new officers for the labor union. There was also some movement going on where the black labor union was being absorbed into the regular labor union. And they were fighting it because they wanted their own representation. It was just a...


Nov. 18 - Captain Tony's Bar Becomes "On Limits" to Navy Personnel

Anthony was born on August 10, 1916 in Elizabeth New Jersey. His father was an immigrant who made his living as a bootlegger during these times of Prohibition. By the time Anthony was heading into high school, he decided his time would be better spent making whiskey and selling it to his Father’s customers. During the war, he left to work for Boeing aircraft company in Seattle. After the war, he returned to NJ and began gambling on horse races to earn money. Well, you can imagine the...