Today, Key West is known for being one of the top vacation destinations in Florida. The small island is filled with countless adventures that attract everyone, from couples on romantic trips to bachelorette parties looking to celebrate. However, besides being home to a wealth of things to do, Key West is also home to a fascinating history that spans years. While relaxing by the pool at Southernmost Inn, take a moment to learn about the island’s past and how it became what it is today.
How Key West Got Its Start
Before the Florida Keys were colonized, several tribes of Native Americans called the area home. The journey to become a permanently settled island started when John W. Simonton from Alabama purchased it from Juan Pablo Salas in 1822.
Simonton joined with three partners: John Fleeming, Pardon Greene, and John Whitehead. The group split the island into four plots, and the names of the founding fathers are now Key West Street names.
Not long after Simonton’s purchase, the United States Navy took possession of the island on behalf of the country. A few years later, Key West was established as a port of entry, and the wrecking industry became the primary trade in Key West. This designation led merchants, shipbuilders, sailmakers, warehouse owners, and more to flock to the island.
Notable Moments in Key West’s History
Over the years, several events have played a vital role in the history of this Florida island.
- Fort Taylor, named after President Zachary Taylor, was constructed in 1845. It was the first large-scale military installation on the island.
- During the mid-19th century, Bahamaians started to immigrate to Key West. They settled in an area now known as Bahamian Village.
- Key West was connected to the mainland in 1912 with the Overseas Railway extension of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway. Today, 42 bridges connect Key West to the mainland.
- In 1926, Pan American Airlines was founded to fly visitors to Havanna. The airline was eventually contracted with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail between Cuba and the United States.
- In 1982, Key West tried to secede from the U.S. The Conch Republic was established as a protest over a federal blockade that was set up to search for illegal immigrants and narcotics. Today, this movement is celebrated annually during the Conch Republic Independence Celebration in April.
Expand Your Horizons on a Key West Getaway
One of the best ways to learn about the history of Key West is by exploring museums near Southernmost Inn. Located in Old Town, our historic inn is close to some top activities and attractions. After a day of adventure, there’s nothing better than returning to your home away from home.