What’s a water cistern you might ask? A cistern is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns can be above or below ground and were commonly used in Key West to capture & store rain water since fresh water was scarce. Early on this water was used for many purposes including drinking, cooking, irrigation and washing. You have to remember that fresh water (an unending flow) was not available to Key West until Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway was completed from Miami to Key West on January 21st 1912 and fresh water soon there followed. If you look close at the 7-Mile Bridge & Bahia Honda Bridge you will see a large black pipe (approximately one foot wide) that runs alongside or underneath each… that my friends was Key West’s first source of piped water! And now you know the rest of the story!
You can find the Navy’s Old Water Cistern exactly beside the newly named ‘Cistern Park’ at the intersection of Whitehead Street & Caroline Street here in Key West.