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Key West

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Title: Key West  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sigsbee Park, Mule Keys, East Rockland Key, Rockland Key, Shark Key
Collection: Beaches of Monroe County, Florida, Islands of Monroe County, Florida, Islands of the Florida Keys, Key West, Florida
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Key West

Key West
Key West Island: largest island in the city of Key West, Florida
Length 4 mi (6 km)
Width 1 mi (2 km)
Highest elevation 18 ft (5.5 m)
Highest point Solares Hill, 18 feet (5.5 m) above sea level
United States
State Florida
County Monroe
City Key West
Key West from space, October 2002
Sunset from Mallory Square

Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida on the North American continent, at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. The island is about 90 miles (140 km) from Cuba.

Key West is politically within the limits of the city of Key West, Monroe County, Florida, United States. The city also occupies portions of nearby islands.

The island is about 4 miles (6.4 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, with a total land mass of 4.2 square miles.[1] Duval Street, its famous main street, is a mere 1.1 miles in length in its 14-block crossing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Straits/Atlantic Ocean. In the late 1950s, many of the large salt ponds on the eastern side were filled in, nearly doubling the original land mass of the island. The island is 3,370 acres (13.6 km2) in area.[2]


  • History 1
  • Rail and road access 2
  • Notable places 3
    • Notable residences 3.1
    • Cuban proximity 3.2
    • Naval Air Station Key West 3.3
    • Port of Key West 3.4
  • Geography and climate 4
    • Geography 4.1
      • Old Town/New Town 4.1.1
        • Old Town
        • New Town
        • Gulf of Mexico/Atlantic
        • Southernmost City
  • Notable people 5
    • Residents 5.1
    • Visitors 5.2
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Rail and road access

Notable places

Notable residences

Cuban proximity

A typical Cuban sandwich that can be found in many cafés and restaurants in and around the city.

Key West is closer to Havana (106 miles, or 170 km) than it is to Miami (127 miles or 207 km, farther by boat).

Naval Air Station Key West

USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG-29) as seen at sunset in Key West on July 22, 2007. This ship is typical of the frigates, destroyers, and smaller military vessels that call at the port. Larger ships, such as aircraft carriers, are prohibited because of their deep draft and the shallowness of the harbor.

Key West was always an important military post, since it sits at the northern edge of the deepwater channel connecting the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (the southern edge 90 miles (140 km) away 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 (ACR-1) 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 (200,000 m2) to 3,000 acres (12 km²), including all of Boca Chica Key's 1,700 acres (7 km2) and the construction of Fleming Key from landfill. The Navy built the first water pipeline extending the length of the keys, bringing fresh water from the mainland to supply its bases.[3] At its peak 15,000 military personnel 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 personnel; 2,507 family members; 35 Reserve members; 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 (54 km) due west of the base. The target is a grounded ship hulk 306 feet (93 m) 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. President 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 government offices there, including the new NOAA Hurricane Forecasting Center. The Navy still owns its piers.
  • Trumbo Annex: The docking area on what had been the railroad yard for Flagler's Overseas Railroad is now used by the Coast Guard.

Port of Key West

The Navy Mole pier in Key West, showing two cruise ships docked.

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.

Cruise Ship Statistics for 1994:[4]

  • Number of visits: 368
  • Passenger count: 398,370
  • City revenues from docking charges: $852,887

Geography and climate


Key West Cemetery near Solares Hill, the highest point of land on the island. The cemetery was moved to the high spot in 1847 after an 1846 hurricane washed corpses out of the beach cemetery.

Key West is located at .[5] The maximum elevation above sea level is about 18 feet (6 m), a area known as Solares Hill.[6]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.4 square miles (19.2 km²), of which 5.9 square miles (15.4 km²) is land and 1.5 square miles (3.8 km²) (19.73%) is water.

Old Town/New Town

Key West Museum of Art & History, formerly known as the Old Post Office and Customshouse
Old Town

The original Key West neighborhood in the west (although perceived as south) is called "Old Town" and comprises the Key West Historic District. It includes the major tourist destinations of the island, including Mallory Square, Duval Street, the Truman Annex and Fort Zachary Taylor. It is where the classic bungalows and guest mansions are found.

Generally, the structures date from 1886 to 1912. The basic features that distinguish the local architecture include wood-frame construction of one- to two-and-a-half-story structures set on foundation piers about three feet above the ground. Exterior characteristics of the buildings are peaked "metal" roofs, horizontal wood siding, gingerbread trim, pastel shades of paint, side-hinged louvered shutters, covered porches (or balconies, galleries, or verandas) along the fronts of the structures, and wood lattice screens covering the area elevated by the piers.

New Town

The island has more than doubled in size via landfill. The new section on the east (perceived as north) is called "New Town." It contains shopping centers, retail malls, residential areas, schools, ball parks, and Key West International Airport.

According to the Key West Association of Realtors (KWAR), Key West can be divided into four distinct areas: Old Town, Casa Marina, Mid-Town and New Town, with various neighborhoods in each area.

Gulf of Mexico/Atlantic

Key West and most of the rest of the Keys are on the dividing line between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The two bodies have different currents, with the calmer and warmer Gulf of Mexico being characterized by great clumps of seagrass. The area where the two bodies merge between Key West and Cuba is called the Straits of Florida. The warmest ocean waters anywhere on the United States mainland are found in the Florida Keys in winter, with sea surface temperatures averaging in the 75 to 77 °F range in December through February.

Southernmost City
Monument at the corner of South and Whitehead Streets (incorrectly) marking the southernmost point in the continental United States accessible by civilians.

One of the biggest attractions on the island is a concrete replica of a buoy at the corner of South and Whitehead Streets that claims to be the southernmost point in the contiguous 48 states (see Extreme Points for more information.) The point was originally just marked with a sign, however the city of Key West erected the now famous monument in 1983.[7] Brightly painted and labeled "SOUTHERNMOST POINT CONTINENTAL U.S.A.", it is one of the most visited and photographed attractions in the United States .[8] Land on the Truman Annex property just west of the buoy is the southernmost point of Key West, but still not the southernmost point of the continental US, and it has no marker since it is U.S. Navy land and cannot be entered by civilian tourists. The private yards directly to the east of the buoy and the beach areas of Truman Annex and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park also lie farther south than the buoy. The farthest-south location that the public can visit is the beach at the state park for a small entrance fee. Florida's true southernmost point is Ballast Key, a privately owned island just south and west of Key West.

Panorama of a Key West beach.

Notable people






  1. ^ City of Key West: City Information
  2. ^ [1] Archived June 2, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Geology and Hydrogeology of the Florida Keys - accessed 18 August 2008
  4. ^ A Chronological History of Key West: A Tropical Island City, Stephen Nichols
  5. ^
  6. ^ National Weather Service
  7. ^ Key West History Archived December 2, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ AOL Cityguide
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ Famous Key West residents
  11. ^ Calvin Klein House - Key West
  12. ^ Kelly McGillis
  13. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (September 2, 2013). "Nyad Completes Cuba-to-Florida Swim". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Dos Passos, John (1966). The best times: an informal memoir. New American Library.
  15. ^ Boog Powell - Key West High School graduate
  16. ^ Willam Belli , Detox Icunt and Vicky Boog Powell - Key West High School graduate
  17. ^ Key West - Famous natives and residents

Further reading

  • Barnett, William C. "Inventing the Conch Republic: The Creation of Key West as an Escape from Modern America," Florida Historical Quarterly (2009) 88#2 pp. 139-172 in JSTOR
  • Boulard, Garry. "'State of Emergency': Key West in the Great Depression." Florida Historical Quarterly (1988): 166-183. in JSTOR
  • Gibson, Abraham H., "American Gibraltar: Key West during World War II", Florida Historical Quarterly, 90 (Spring 2012), 393–425.
  • Levy, Philip. "" The Most Exotic of Our Cities": Race, Place, Writing, and George Allan England's Key West." Florida Historical Quarterly (2011): 469-499. in JSTOR
  • Ogle, Maureen. Key West: History of an island of dreams (University Press of Florida, 2003)

External links

  • Official City Website
  • Monroe County School District—Key West Public Schools
  • Key West Art Galleries
  • Key West Citizen
  • Nautical Chart of Key West
  • Bus Service from Miami to Key West
  • Map of Webcams in Key West
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