Jimmy Buffett was in Key West friday night. He attended David Wolkowsky’s annual cocktail party which has become a part of the Key West Literary Seminary. The Seminary is on going this week. The party was held on the roof top of the Kress building. Better known to most as the building which housed Fast Buck Freddy’s for years.
There was a picture in yesterday’s Key West Citizen of Buffett and Wolkowsky at the party. Buffett and Wolkowsky are business partners. Buffett also proudly tells all that Wolkowsky was the first person to hire him.
The old timers in Key West know of Wolkowsky. Some of the newer residents perhaps not. Most of the tourists not.
I want to share with you David Wolkowsky’s story.
Wolkowsky is 94 years old. He is a legend in his own time. A quiet unassuming millionaire. He is responsible for much of what is Key West today. He worked diligently to preserve the best of old Key West. He was primarily responsible in the prevention of high rise buildings on the island.
He is known as the American Developer. Not for his efforts in Key West alone, but also for the significant preservation work he did in his younger days in Philadelphia.
His grandfather came to Key West in the late 1880s and opened a fine clothing store on Duval Street. Wolkowsky was born in Key West. The family at some point moved to Miami. Wolkowsky later went to college at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he settled in Philadelphia. He was best known in those years for the renovation and preservation of what once had been Philadelphia’s best neighborhoods.
He was financially successful. In 1962 at the age of 40, he retired to Key West. Soon after, he started developing Key West real estate.
Today’s Captain Tony’s stands because of Wolkowsky’s efforts. This goes back to when it was Sloppy Joe’s and Hemingway’s first hang out. The building had been condemned. Wolkowsky saved it.
In 1967, he built a 50 room motel and restaurant at what would be 0 Duval today. It was called the Pier House Resort Motel. The forerunner of today’s Pier House.
My favorite haunt the Chart Room was a part of Wolkowsky’s Pier House. Here is where Jimmy Buffett comes into the picture. Wolkowsky was the first to hire him and it was at the Chart Room.
Wolkowsky built a dream home some eight miles off Key West on Ballast Key. He entertained often at both the Pier House and Ballast Key. He entertained the likes of Truman Capote, Tennesee Williams, Leonard Bernstein, Rudolf Nureyev, and Lillian Hellman. The Rockefellers, Mellons and Vanderbilts were his guests, as well as British Prime Minister Edward Heath.
Wolkowsky entertained at Ballast Key with a menu consisting of hot dogs, white wine and potato chips. For which he was famous.
Another significant accomplishment was his construction of the Reach Resort.
Wolkowsky could be seen over the years driving around Key West in a golf cart or his beloved 1926 Rolls Royce.
A man for the ages. Key West is fortunate that he settled here and his family before him. Conchs all in every sense of the word!
Enjoy your day!