All is now well in Key West. The Chart Room has opened!
Friday night. No one told me. I got a call from Jean Thornton last night informing me.
The Chart Room will be open every evening, except for monday and tuesday. The reason for 2 closed days is help. John Holster is bartending the other 5 evenings. Welcome back, John! The Chart Room would not be the same without you.
David Wolkowsky is the father of modern Key West. His vision and effort awakened a dormant community.
David was a wonderful man. One of the best I have met in my life time. We were friends. David died a few yeas ago at the age of 99.
In 1967, David thought the Gulf end of Duval had the makings for a good hotel. There were none at that end at the time. He started with a 5o unit motel. Named it the Pier House Motel.
It is said big trees from little acorns grow. Such was the case with the Pier House. David is the person who grew the Pier House to what it is today.
Forty three years ago, some of David’s local friends talked to him about a bar for the Pier House. Something small and intimate.
David agreed. He took out one of the first floor rooms. Added booze and a mahogany bar. The Chart Room was born.
An instantaneous hit! Especially for the power brokers of Key West. Bankers, politicians, Judges, the Police Chief, the Fie Chief, the Deputy Fire Chief, pot smugglers, divers, etc. More business was done during cocktail hour at the Chart Room than anywhere else in Key West.
Mel Fisher was a regular. Fisher eventually found part of the Atocha and $400 million dollars in gold and emeralds.
Jimmy Buffett got his start in the Chart Room. Buffett first arrived in November 1971. He roared into Key West in a 1947 Packard sedan with Mr. Bojangles.
Wolkowsky gave him a job in the Chart Room singing and playing his small guitar. His pay tips and drinks from customers.
Wolkowsky had a smart eye for pending success. He eventually paid Buffett to perform in the Chart Room. Buffett will attest to the fact the first one to pay him in actual money in Key West was Wolkowsky.
The two became friends and business partners. They purchased buildings in Key West and elsewhere in the U.S.
The Chart Room swiftly became a place for the visiting rich and famous. Men like Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, British Prime Minister Heath, Rockefellers, and Mellons. All guests of David Wolkowsky. David knew everyone and they knew him. They came to Key West to enjoy the Pier House, Chart Room and Wolkowsky’s company.
The locals who initially frequented the Chart Room included Steve and Cindy Thompson. Steve made his fortune with taco stands all over Key West and Florida. Cindy worked as Buffett’s assistant for 30 years.
Others included Hunter Thompson, Tom Cochran, Tom McGvane, Mr. Bojangles, Jerry Jeff and Jim Croce. This was a time when no one was famous yet and drinking was a sport.
Freebies available to this day. Hot dogs, popcorn and a huge barrel of peanuts.. All three go over big.
The bar rail has become the resting place for a handful of the original customers. Small holes were dug in the bar. One for each of the individuals involved. A small plaque with each’s name next to their hole. As they died, supposedly a small portion of their ashes were placed in the holes and sealed over. Only one hole remains unfilled today.
Jean and Joe Thornton regulars today. They are from Birmingham, Alabama. Years ago, Jean went diving with Mel Fisher. She found gold coins and emeralds. A school teacher, she stopped working immediately. Jean is known as Key West’s Golden Girl.
Time moves on. Regulars come and go. Some move, some by death. New “regulars” come upon the scene. Today’s group includes Jean and Joe Thornton, Sheila Cullens, Steve and Cindy Thompson, Ollie, Kevin and Holly, Che, English Peter Bamberger, David Hecht, Ann Zaler, Valerie Chelley, and Marty Leshaw. Me too, of course.
A person senses history as he/she enter the Chart Room. It’s unavoidable.
Enjoy your day!