Key West’s 1886 Devastating Fire

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Key West’s ‘Old Town’ the morning after fire

Exactly 129 years ago TODAY, a devastating fire ravaged Key West’s ‘Old Town’ and Duval Street! Sadly this was NO APRIL FOOLS JOKE.

Here’s a Key West historical marker that I bet 10,000 people pass on a daily basis without ever knowing it’s there. Yes, on Key West’s busiest street, Duval Street, this tiny 4″ wide x 10″ tall sign goes unnoticed by the masses. I’m determined to inform you my educated readers where it is and what it says so that you may seek it out on your next trip.

Key West’s most devastating fire was ignited in a coffee shop next to the San Carlos Institute at 2:00 a.m. April 1, 1886. The fire raged for 12 hours as it raced through the center of the city, 16 cigar factories, 200 houses and several warehouses. Suspicions of murder, intrigue, and revolutionary aspirations swirl around its history. Since the fire, Key West has required all roofs to be made of metal to deter a future fire from spreading so quickly. I think they call that “A day late and a dollar short”!

You can find this overlooked historic maker mounted on a wall at 516 Duval Street on the left side of the San Carlos Institute building pictured below.

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Origin Of April Fools’ Day

800px-Aprilsnar_2001Happy April Fools’ Day!Though not a national holiday, April 1st (also known as All Fools’ Day) is widely recognized as a day when people play harmless practical jokes on each other. In Italy, Belgium, & France they call it April Fish Day taping a picture of a fish on an unsuspecting friend, fellow student, or co-worker! I kid you not, that’s 100% true! :-)

Its origin is uncertain to say the least, I’ve read at least a dozen different accounts of its possible beginnings. To be honest, you’ll just have to pick out the one you like best. One of the earliest recorded April Fools’ pranks was in Chaucer’s 1392 Canterbury Tales where readers misinterpretation of March 32nd as a valid date really being April 1st. Heck, I would’ve fallen for that one! :-)

Pictured here is an April Fools’ joke in Copenhagen, Denmark showing a subway car breaking thru the pavement. The best prank on me was at the Chicago International Airport having just touched down taxing past a banner reading “Welcome To Los Angeles”…  way too cool!

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USA’s Southernmost County

The Florida Keys encompasses two of this states most scenic & historic counties; Miami-Dade and Monroe.

Welcome to Monroe county, the southernmost county in the entire United States! I’ve included a photo of Monroe County’s symbolic logo below that includes: palm tree, conch shell, anchor and of course an ocenview. As of the 2010 census, the population was 73,090. Its county seat is Key West. Founded in 1823, Monroe County includes all of the islands of the Florida Keys.

You can find the ‘Entering Monroe County’ sign at Mile Marker 112.8 on US-1’s southbound lane on what is called the 18-Mile Stretch. Be very careful, the sign is on a small bridge spanning a canal, therefore please park before or after the bridge for safety reasons.

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Oceanfront Harry Harris Park

IMG_1369Welcome to Harry Harris Park, yet another fantastic example of the Florida Keys oceanfront parks using the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean as its backdrop.

So whether your intent is swimming in the lagoon, boating in the open waters, sunbathing in the sand, picnicking under a shelter or just enjoying the ocean view, this place is for you. Don’t worry, it also has a playground for the little ones and wide open-air spaces to run around playing frisbee for the bigger kids if you so wish.

You can experience Harry Harris Park for yourself at Mile Marker 92.6 off on US-1 oceanside. US-1 at this point is divided into north and southbound lanes by a bussiness-filled median. Go east on Burton Drive to its end at East Beach Road where you’ll see the park’s entrance across the street. An entrance fee of $5 is required.

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Walkway ‘To Nowhere’ Was NEVER Finished

IMG_1411Here’s a roadside oddity that will get your mind going! A nearly 100 foot roadside walkway years in the making that has NEVER been finished.

I’ve been driving past this for years now wondering when it would be done always saying “Maybe next time!”. Well, next time has never come!

I will admit that it does makes a great picture all by itself. At a certain angle (featured photo) it simply looks like that it’s a path to nowhere. Hmmm… you know what, I guess it really is! :-)

You can find the ‘Walkway Path To Nowhere’ at Mile Marker 19.4 oceanside on US-1 directly at the traffic light.

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Does Your Boat-Shaped House Have A Boathouse?

boathouseDoes your house have a boathouse? Sorry… I really meant to say; “Does your boat-shaped house have a boathouse?” Prepare to be in AWE! This is one of the most amazingly unique homes I’ve ever seen.

This is an astounding red & white-painted personal home in the shape of an old-style steam ship complete with porthole windows and it own lighthouse. Nothing less than awe-inspiring! Way too cool! Oh yeah, building a home like this they expect people to stop, look and take photos of them. With that said, this blog is not about its front, it’s about its boathouse around the back! Look at the featured photo, this is the back of the home with a fully roofed boathouse connected to the incredible boat-shaped home.

You can find this ‘Steam Ship Lighthouse Shaped Home’ at Mile Marker 53.3 on US-1 oceanside turning onto 122nd Street (aka Yacht Harbor Drive) and simply driving to the very end. (that’s to see the front) To see the boathouse simply rent a boat and steer it around the back! :-)

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Historic Gato House

IMG_0815Welcome to historic Gato House built in 1894 by Cigar mogul Eduardo H. Gato one of Key West’s most prominent families.

Gato was instrumental in Key Wests evolution from a small fishing village to one of the wealthiest cities in Florida through his development of the Cuban cigar industry.  He built Key West’s foremost cigar factory using imported tobacco from Cuba, where millions of cigars were rolled, packaged and shipped all over the world.

Gato House can be found at the corner of South Street & Duval Street just up from the Southernmost Buoy.

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