Key West, Florida - United States of America

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June 19th 1995
Published: November 20th 2006
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Key WestKey WestKey West

Key West, Florida - United States of America

Jun 19, 1995

*City official name :Key West
*Founded date :
*Location :Florida State
*Elavation :? ft (? m)
*Area :Approximately ? square miles (? km²).
*Facts :Key West is a city and an island of the same name near the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys in Monroe County, Florida, United States. It is the county seat of Monroe County.GR6 Key West is known as the Southernmost City in the Continental United States and also as the Conch Republic. It is also the southern terminus of U.S. Route 1, State Road A1A and the East Coast Greenway.

Key West is 129 miles (207 km) southwest (229.9 degrees) of Miami, Florida, (about 160 driving miles) and 106 miles (170 km) north northeast (21.2 degrees) of Havana, Cuba. Cuba, at its closest point is 98 statute (85 nautical) miles due south.

Key West is a seaport destination for many passenger cruise ships. The Key West International Airport provides airline service. Hotels and guest houses are available for lodging. Many restaurants offer a choice of indoor or outdoor dining.

It is a popular gay tourist destination, has a large Naval flight school and
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was the Winter White House of Harry S. Truman.

The central business district primarily comprises Duval Street, and includes much of the northwest corner of the island along Whitehead, Simonton, Front, Greene, Caroline, Eaton Streets and Truman Avenue.

In Pre-Columbian times Key West was inhabited by the Calusa people. The first European to visit was Juan Ponce de León in 1521. As Florida became a Spanish colony, a fishing and salvage village with a small garrison was established here.

Cayo Hueso
Cayo Hueso (pronounced kī-yo-way-so) is the original Spanish name for the island of Key West. Spanish speaking people also use the term Cayo Hueso when referring to Key West. It literally means bone key. It's said that the island was littered with the remains (bones) from an Indian battlefield or burial ground. The most widely accepted theory of how the name changed to Key West is that it is a false friend anglicisation of the word, being that the word hueso (pronounced way-so) sounds like it could mean west in English. Other theories of how the island was named are that the name indicated that it was the westernmost Key, or that the island was the
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westernmost key with a reliable supply of water.

Many businesses on the island use the name, such as Casa Cayo Hueso, Cayo Hueso Resorts, Cayo Hueso Consultants, Cayo Hueso y Habana Historeum, etc.

In 1763 when Great Britain took control of Florida, the community of Spaniards and Native Americans were moved to Havana. Florida returned to Spanish control 20 years later, but there was no official resettlement of the island. Informally the island was used by fishermen from Cuba and from the British Bahamas, who were later joined by others from the United States after the latter nation's independence. While claimed by Spain, no nation exercised de facto control over the community there for some time.

In 1815 the Spanish governor in Havana, Cuba deeded the island of Key West to Juan Pablo Salas, an officer of the Royal Spanish Artillery posted in Saint Augustine, Florida. After Florida was transferred to the United States, Salas was so eager to sell the island that he sold it twice - first for a sloop valued at $575, and then to a U.S. businessman John W. Simonton, during a meeting in a Havana cafe, for the equivalent of $2,000 in
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pesos in 1821. The sloop trader quickly sold the island to a General John Geddes, a former governor of South Carolina, who tried in vain to secure his rights to the property before Simonton, with the aid of some influential friends in Washington, was able to gain clear title to the island. Simonton had wide-ranging business interest in Mobile, Alabama. He bought the island because a friend, John Whitehead, had drawn his attention on the opportunities presented by the island's strategic location. John Whitehead had been stranded in Key West after a shipwreck in 1819 and he had been impressed by the potential offered by the deep harbor of the island. The island was indeed considered the "Gibraltar of the West" because of its strategic location on the 90 mile wide deep shipping lane Straits of Florida between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Of Mexico. On March 25, 1822, Matthew C. Perry sailed the schooner Shark to Key West and planted the U.S. flag, physically claiming the Keys as United States property. Perry reported on piracy problems in the Caribbean. Perry renamed Cayo Hueso (Key West) to "Thompson's Island" for the Secretary of the Navy Smith Thompson and the
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Key West, Florida - United States of America
harbor "Port Rodgers" for War of 1812 hero John Rodgers. Neither name was to stick. In 1823 Commodore David Porter of the United States Navy West Indies Anti-Pirate Squadron took charge of Key West, which he ruled (but, according to some, exceeding his authority) as military dictator under martial law.

Soon after his purchase, Simonton subdivided the island into plots and sold 3 undivided quarters of each plot to:

John Mountain and U.S. Consul John Warner who quickly resold their quarter to Pardon C. Greene who took up residence on the island
John Whitehead, his friend who had advised him to buy Key West
John Fleeming (nowadays spelled Fleming)
John Simonton spent the winter in Key West and the summer in Washington where he lobbied hard for the development of the island and to establish a naval base on the island, both to take advantage of the island's strategic location and to bring law and order to the town. He died in 1854.

Pardon C. Greene is the only one of the 4 "founding fathers" to establish himself permanently on the island where he became quite prominent as head of "P.C. Greene and Company". He also served
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briefly as Mayor. He died in 1838 at the age of 57.

John Whitehead lived in Key West for only eight years. He became a partner in the firm of "P.C. Greene and Company" from 1824-1827. A lifelong bachelor, he left the island for good in 1832. He came back only once during the Civil War in 1861 and died the next year.

John W.C. Fleeming was English born and was active in mercantile business in Mobile,Alabama where he became friend with John Simonton. Fleeming spent only a few months in Key West in 1822 and left for Massachusetts where he married. He returned to Key West in 1832 with the intention of developping salt manufacturing on the island but died the same year at the young age of 51.

The names of the 4 "founding fathers" of modern Key West were given to main arteries of the island when it was first platted in 1829 by William Adee Whitehead, John Whitehead's younger brother. That first plat and the names used remained mostly intact and is still in use today. Duval street, the island's main street is named after Florida's first territorial Governor who served between 1822
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and 1834, the longest serving Governor in Florida's U.S. history.

William Whitehead became chief editorial writer for the "Enquirer" a local newspaper in 1834. He had the genius of preserving copies of his newspaper as well as copies from the "Key West Gazette", its predecessor. He later sent those copies to the Monroe County Clerk for preservation which gives us a precious view on life in Key West in the early days (1820-1840).

Many of the residents of Key West were immigrants from the Bahamas, known as Conchs who arrived in increasing numbers after 1830. Many were sons and daughters of Loyalists who fled to the nearest crown soil during the American Revolution. In the 20th Century many residents of Key West started referring to themselves as "Conchs", and the term is now generally applied to all residents of Key West. Some residents use the term "Conch" to refer to a person born in Key West, while the term "Fresh Water Conch" refers to a resident not born in Key West but who has lived in Key West for seven years or more. However, the true original meaning of Conch applies only to someone with European ancestory that
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immigrated from the Bahamas. It is said that when a baby was born, the family would put a conch shell on a pole in front of their home.

Many of the Bahama immigrants live in an area of Old Town next to the Truman Annex called "Bahama Village."

Major industries in Key West in the early 19th century included fishing, salt production, and most famously salvage. In 1860 wrecking made Key West the largest and richest city in Florida and the wealthiest town per capita in the U.S. A number of the inhabitants worked salvaging shipwrecks from nearby Florida reefs, and the town was noted for the unusually high concentration of fine furniture and chandeliers which the locals used in their own homes after salvaging them from wrecks.

During the American Civil War, while Florida seceded and joined the Confederate States of America, Key West remained in U.S. Union hands because of the Naval base. Fort Zachary Taylor, constructed from 1845 to 1866, was an important Key West outpost during the Civil War. Fort Jefferson, located about 68 miles (109 km) from Key West on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas, served after the Civil War as
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the prison for Dr. Samuel A. Mudd convicted of conspiracy for setting the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.

In the late 19th century, salt and salvage declined as industries, but Key West gained a thriving cigar making industry.

Many Cubans moved to Key West during Cuba's unsuccessful war for independence in the 1860s and 1870s.

Key West was relatively isolated until 1912 when it was connected to the Florida mainland via Overseas Railway extension of Henry M. Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway (FEC). Flager created a landfill at Trumbo Point for his railyards. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 destroyed much of the railroad, and killed hundreds of residents, including around 400 World War I veterans who were living in camps and working on federal road and mosquito-control projects in the Middle Keys. The FEC could not afford to restore the railroad.

The United States Federal Government then rebuilt the rail lines as an automobile highway, completed in 1938, which became an extension of United States Highway 1. The portion of US 1 through the Keys is called the Overseas Highway. Franklin Roosevelt toured the road in 1939.
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Key West, Florida - United States of America

Several Presidents have visited Key West. Harry Truman visited for 175 days on 11 visits during his Presidency and visited several times after he left office (see Truman Annex)

Key West was in a down cycle when Franklin D. Roosevelt visited in 1939. The build up of military bases on the island occurred shortly thereafter.

In addition to Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed in Key West following a heart attack. In November of 1962, John F. Kennedy visited Key West a month after the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Jimmy Carter held a family reunion in Key West after leaving office.

Numerous artists and writers have passed through Key West but the two most associated with the island are Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms while living above the show room of a Key West Ford dealership at 314 Simonton Street while awaiting delivery of a Ford Roadster purchased by the uncle of his wife Pauline in 1928.

Hardware store owner Charles Thompson introduced him to deep sea fishing. Among the group that went fishing was Joe Russell (also known as Sloppy Joe). Russell
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was reportedly the model for Freddy in To Have and Have Not. Portions of the original manuscript were found at Sloppy Joe’s Bar after his death. The group had nicknames for each other and Hemingway wound up with "Papa".

Pauline's rich uncle Gus Pfeiffer bought the 907 Whitehead Street house in 1931 as a wedding present. Legend says the Hemingways installed a swimming pool for $20,000 in the late 1930s (equivalent in 2006 to $250,000). It was such a high price that Hemingway is said to have put a penny in the concrete saying "Here, take the last penny I've got!" The penny is still there.

During his stay he wrote or worked on: Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. He used Depression-era Key West as the locale for To Have and Have Not — his only novel set in the United States.

Pauline and Hemingway divorced in 1939 and Hemingway only occasionally visited while returning from Havana until his suicide in 1961.

The six-toed polydactyl cats from Hemingway's days still roam his Whitehead Street neighborhood.

Tennessee Williams first became
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a regular visitor to Key West in 1941, and is said to have written the first draft of A Streetcar Named Desire while staying in 1947 at the La Concha Hotel. He bought a permanent house in 1949 and listed Key West as his primary residence until his death in 1983. In contrast to Hemingway's grand house in Old Town, Williams home at 1431 Duncan Street in the "unfashionable" New Town neighborhood is a very modest bungalow. The house is privately owned and not open to the public. The Academy Award-winning film version of his “The Rose Tattoo” was shot on the island in 1956. The Tennessee Williams Theatre is located on the campus of Florida Keys Community College on Stock Island.

Williams had a series of rentals all over the U.S. but the only home he owned was in Key West.

Even though Hemingway and Williams were in Key West at the same time, they reportedly only met once -- at Hemingway's Cuba home Finca Vigia.

In 1982 Key West, and the rest of the Florida Keys, briefly declared its "independence" as the Conch Republic in a protest over a United States Border Patrol blockade. This blockade was set up on U.S. 1 where the Northern end of the Overseas Highway meets the mainland at Florida City. This blockade was in response to the Mariel Boatlift. A seventeen mile traffic jam ensued while the Border Patrol stopped every car leaving the Keys supposedly searching for illegal aliens attempting to enter the mainland United States. This paralyzed the Florida Keys, which rely heavily on the tourism industry. Flags, T-shirts and other merchandise representing the Conch Republic are still popular souvenirs for visitors to Key West.

Key West was always an important military post since it sits at the northern edge of the deep water channel connecting the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (the southern terminus 90 miles south is Cuba) via the Florida Straits. Because of this Key West since the 1820s had been dubbed the "Gibraltar of the West." Fort Taylor was initially built on the island. The Navy added a small base from which the USS Maine sailed to its demise in Havana at the beginning of the Spanish-American War.

At the beginning of World War II the Navy increased its presence from 50 acres to 3,000 acres including 1,700 acres of all of Boca Chica Key and the construction of Fleming Key from landfill. The Navy built the first water line extending the length of the keys. At its peak 15,000 military and 3,400 civilians were at the base. Included in the base are:

NAS Key West - This is the main facility on Boca Chica where the Navy trains its pilots. Staff are housed at Sigsbee Park. In 2006 there were 1,650 active-duty; 2,507 family members; 35 Reserve; and 1,312 civilians listed at the base. In the 1990s the Navy worked out an agreement with the National Park Service to stop sonic booms near Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Many of the training missions are directed at the Marquesas "Patricia" Target 29 nautical miles due west of the base. The target is a grounded ship hulk 306-feet in length that is visible only at low tide. Bombs are not actually dropped on the target.
Truman Annex - The area next to Fort Taylor became a submarine pen and was used for the Fleet Sonar School. Harry S. Truman was to make the commandant's house his winter White House. The Fort Taylor Annex was later renamed the Truman Annex. This portion has largely been decommissioned and turned over to private developers and the City of Key West. However there are still a few offices including the new NOAA Hurricane Forecasting Center there. The Navy still owns its piers.
Trumbo Annex - The docking area on what had been the railroad yard for the Flager Overseas Railroad is now used by the Coast Guard.

The first cruise ship was the Sunward in 1969, which docked at the Navy's pier in the Truman Annex or the privately owned Pier B. The Navy's pier is called the Navy Mole.

In 1984 the city opened a pier right on Mallory Square. The decision was met with considerable opposition from people who felt it would disrupt the tradition of watching the sunset at Mallory Square.

Cruise ships now dock at all three piers.


21st November 2006

The last five years, my husband and I have taken our vacation here. The people are very friendly and we love going somewhere warm in the winter. Plus, you do not have to leave the United States.
23rd February 2010

please helpme out
I am a Conch Republic passport holder and I have been looking to the countries I am entitle to go with this passport

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