TOUCHES OF KEY WEST

The Hemingway Look A Like Contest ran well into the evening saturday night. At Sloppy Joe’s. 131 contestants. Wally Collins, a Phoenix restaurateur won.

I do not know how many years Collins has been a contestant. The word on the street is it takes at least 10 years of participating before anyone is seriously considered. My friend Hank from Melbourne has been trying for 21 years. Has not made it yet!

Hemingway and Key West go hand in hand. He lived in Key West from 1931-39. Wrote To Have and Have Not and A Farewell to Arms while here. Worked on parts of other novels.

Tennessee Williams was another outstanding writer who made his home in Key West. From 1949-83, he lived at 1431 Duncan Street. One and a half blocks from where Lisa now lives. While visiting and not yet having settled in Key West, Williams wrote a first draft of A Streetcar Named Desire. He wrote it in 1947 while staying at the La Concha Hotel on Duval. The La Concha stands to this day.

During the Civil War, Florida seceded. Key West however remained in Union hands. The Union had a naval base and military personnel here.

A Conch today is a person who was born in Key West. A much respected designation. Those who came here to live but were not born in Key West, and have resided in Key West for seven years, are known as Freshwater Conchs.

The term Conch has a far deeper history. The first Conchs were persons of European ancestry who immigrated from the Bahamas. They came in increasing numbers beginning in the 1830’s.

By 1889, Key West was the largest and wealthiest city in Florida. The salt and salvage businesses though good were starting to decline. Cigar making was on the rise.

Key West was isolated prior to 1912. No railroad or highway. Water the only access. In 1912, Henry Flagler completed his railroad to Key West.  Flagler’s Overseas Railroad. Much of the railroad was destroyed by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. It was never rebuilt.

US 1 was completed in 1938. A highway connecting Key West with mainland Florida. Called the Overseas Highway.

The one person close in Key West fame to Hemingway is Harry Truman. Truman spent a total of 175 days over a course of 11 visits while President. He stayed at a part of the Naval Base which is now Truman Annex. The building was known as the Little White House. It is now listed on the National Registry.

The Naval Base was first established in 1820. It remains to this day. Spread around and significantly smaller. At its strength, it had 15,000 military and 3,400 civilian personnel.

Cruise ships first docked in Key West at Mallory Square in 1984.

Key West is reputed to be the southernmost point in the United States. Close, but not actually. Ballast Key which is a privately owned island to the south and west of Key West is the southernmost point.

Cuba is a mere 90 miles from Key West. Closer than Miami which is 155 miles from Key West.

Hurricanes are always a concern. Yearly. Generally in the fall months. Though some on occasion a bit earlier. Wilma in 2005 and Georges in 1998 were the two worst hurricanes in recent years.

Hope you found these bits of information interesting.

Enjoy your day!

 

8 comments on “TOUCHES OF KEY WEST

  1. Just wondering: is the real southernmost spot, Ballard Key, inhabited ? (By humans? Or just wildlife?) Just curious….

    • John from Jersey…..Thank you for responding to Anne re Ballast Key. You were quicker to the key than I. David one of the most prominent Key West figures. I recently wrote about him a couple of months ago. He threw hot dog and champagne parties on his island. Many guests were political celebrities such as Prime Ministers and the like. He is also the person who financed and got Jimmy Buffet started.

      • Lou, yes, I recall your piece on DW. I didn’t remember that he was instrumental(pun intended) 🙂 in getting Jimmy B going. You always have something interesting to relate. We love reading your Blog.
        Hope to run into you when we are down for our annual anniversary visit during Lobsterfest!
        Best Regards,
        John

  2. Lou, I am adding something to your Conch culture. If one is not a salt water conch, fresh water conch or tourist, that leaves the term Stranger. I seem to be in that category so I am told. Ha.

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