This is the only one of its kind still remaining in Key West! These bench prop photo-ops in past years were a dime-a-dozen strewed all over town but now relegated to this lone example of a lost type of attraction. On an earlier visit I noticed that the Boat Captain was gone while the bench remained and feared that it too had vanished into history as all the others. Upon returning on my next visit it miraculously appeared complete with a brand new shiny paint job.
You can find this photo-op Boat Captain permanently attached on a bench in front of the Key West Seaquarium located at Mallory Square just two blocks south of Duval Streets western end. Once upon a time there was a bench in Key West’s Harbor Walk where you could sit beside a box of chocolates next to Forrest Gump at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company… but they’ve long since gone out of business! So sad, that was really neat and I still miss seeing Forrest.
This of course is FREE for you and your family to partake in a photograph or two. So get your butt over and take that photo for posterity before this too is gone forever!
Woven Rose & Vase
Basket Weaving 101 is a class that most of us skipped in High School and College! Here in Key West you’ll find several places where you might pick up a hand-made basket, bowl, hat or even a ROSE. Look at the photo to the left and you can see the most creative rose and vase woven from a palm frond. Below you can see these talented (and patient) people at work honing their craft into sellable items for purchase… just don’t ask them to smile… they ignored me like the plague.
The photo of the two men behind the table are at Mallory Square where the single man on the street corner is in front of Sloppy Joe’s Bar. It’s FREE to watch, wander & ponder the wares for sale and could make a unique gift from your weekend in the Paradise of Key West!
An Author wrote: Boxing – You can press the language out of it. The moving machinery of ligaments. The intimate fray of rope. The men in their archaic stances like anatomy illustrations from an old-time encyclopedia. The moment in a fight when the punches slow down and the opponents watch each other like time-lapse photographs, the sweat frozen in midair, the maniacal grin like the teeth themselves have gone bare-knuckle. Was that Ernest Hemingway? Not sure.
This I am sure: The Fight Night tradition recalls a Key West history of boxing that was particularly strong in the 1930’s. Ernest Hemingway often spent leisure hours officiating boxing matches at a makeshift arena not far from his Whitehead Street home, and befriended and sparred with fighters from the nearby Bahama Village districts Blue Heaven. Hemingway himself was a big time boxer in his youth resulting in permanent eye damage so bad that he was turned down several times for enlisting in the US Military that he finally opted to join the Italian Infantry in WWI.
That tradition has returned to Key West in a oceanside series of bouts set at Mallory Square dubbed “Rumbles in Paradise” for live broadcasts on ESPN 2’s “Friday Night Fights.” General admission tickets begin at $35 per person and cap at $150 per person for VIP seats ringside.
I’ve included the 3 photos of Ernest Hemingway known as the Crown Prince of Key West Boxing (1 in Africa). Seen below also are 3 modern-day photos of the boxing ring, boxers & boxing complex located at DeKalb Avenue sandwiched between the main entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor and the rear entrance to the Naval Air Station Truman Annex.
Founders Park in Key West is a great place to visit, it’s neither a park to picnic nor a place to spend the entire day. It measures a mere 30′ x 60′ in the middle of the busiest section of town called Mallory Square just 3 blocks southwest of Duval Streets northern end.
Also called Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden, it opened in September 1997 and is located on the original shoreline in front of the Waterfront Playhouse. As you enter through the wrought iron gates, a magnificent 18′ long and 25′ high sculpture entitled “The Wreckers” captures your attention and takes you back to the days when brave men would yell “Wreck Ashore” and risked their lives saving vessels and passengers in distress.
The pioneering spirit of Key West and its island people will dominate your experience as you wander along the shaded brick pathways. The Garden features 36 bronze busts depicting men and women who made Key West such a vibrant and important outpost of American culture and folklore. The entire $700,000 price tag to fund this park was raised by selling individual names engraved on bricks called the Walkway thru History.
I’ve personally looked at all 36 busts trying to find any link to either side of my family tree… no such luck. Though my father was Monroe County’s & Key West’s first Eagle Scout and one time honorary Mayor of Key West (for a day, true)… it wasn’t enough to get a bronze bust. Oh well, our family did however own prosperous businesses that helped spawn the island growth and well-being including restaurants and a number of gas stations. Founders Park or Sculpture Garden is worth a FREE 30-minute visit to check out Key West’s beginnings and prominent people throughout history.
Sponge Bob No Pants
Everyone’s heard of Sponge Bob Square Pants, but I bet you’ve never seen his long-lost cousin from Memphis… Sponge Bob No Pants! There are in fact two of these creature features in Key West, the one pictured here at the largest gift shop at Mallory Square and the other at one at the Turtle Kraals area of town on Harbor Walk.
Kids galore flock to get their photos taken with this life-size behemoth of glued together sponges while smiling big & wide as if it were Sponge Bob Square Pants himself!
To get here just follow the crowds, Mallory Square is the #1 tourist trap area of town besides Duval Street. Go to the northwest end of Duval and turn south 2 blocks and you’ll run right into him… I mean Mallory Square. Go ahead, I’ll turn my head while you pose with him, It’s for big kids too!
Almost every tourist when coming to Key West ends up visiting Mallory Square at least once. Their reasons may vary from watching a sunset from Key West’s #1 most popular location, seeing street performers displaying their talents during dusk or just visiting the many shops that populate its square. No matter the choice most end up here and yet 99% of them have no clue who Mallory was or why it’s called Mallory Square. Here’s your answer!
His name was Stephen Russell Mallory (1812-1873). His home stood near this site from 1839-1895 when it became U.S. Navy property. He was a U.S. Senator from Florida from 1851-1861 and chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee in 1853. As Secretary of the Navy for the Confederate State Cabinet (1861-1865) he pioneered the use of submarines and ironclad warships in naval warfare. A son Stephen R. Mallory Jr. grew up in and later owned the house. He too represented Florida in the U.S. Senate (1897-1908).
There, now you can boast about knowing the naming of Mallory Square. You can find this historic marker for the Mallory Homesite just 50′ from its namesake Mallory Square here in Key West. Just look for an Egyptian granite obelisk within feet of it located in the middle of a median dividing the intersection of three roads.
In the 19th Century shipwreckers along the treacherous Florida reef were numerous. Fishermen and spongers (the sponge trade) turned to wrecking as a means of livelihood, almost every seaworthy vessel in Key West quickly responded to the exciting cry “Wreck Ashore” to earn whatever share they could in the great wealth that the golden age of wrecking brought to the island city.
Seen here is a replica of the Sloop Mary wrecking / work boat owned by Charles & Asa Tift successful wrecking brothers. To find out more about the wrecking industry and its history, the Sloop Mary is located only 50′ away from the Shipwreck History Museum to its right here in Mallory Square. To see Key West’s Sloop Mary is FREE and is centrally located in the heart of ‘Old Town’ Key West.