Florida Historical Markers Programs - Marker: Monroe

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Location:625 Truman Ave.
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: An outbreak of piracy in 1822 prompted the United States to organize the West Indian Squadron, an anti-pirate fleet. Commanded by Commodore David Porter, the Squadron in 1823 included 17 ships and 1,100 men based in Key West. For two years the fleet attacked many of the estimated 2,000 pirates in the Indies. In 1825, after Porter was removed from command, Commodore Lewis Warrington continued the assault. Altogether 79 pirates were taken by U.S. ships.
Location:Truman Avenue between Simonton and Margaret Street
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: Built by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, a Canadian Order which first established a school here in 1868. Designed by William Kerr of Ireland, of Romanesque style, with dormered, mansard roofs and central tower. In the Spanish- American war the Sisters offered their services as nurses and the Convent to the Navy as a hospital and rendered devoted service to the wounded and yellow fever victims.
Location:401 Duval Street
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: Oldest in Florida diocese, the present church (1912) is the fourth on this site. John Fleming, one of the four original owners of the island, is buried here. His widow donated the property, stipulating that the church pews be free. Rectory built 1853. The chimes, first installed in a Florida church, were originally in a frame church (1886) destroyed in 1909 hurricane.
Location:700 Fleming Street - Monroe County Public Library
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: On April 8, 1892, a group of citizens organized the Key West Library Association. The first public library was open in the old Masonic Temple September 15, 1892. After 1896, the operation was assumed by other civic groups, including the Key West Woman's Club, which for 44 years provided library service. Through the group's efforts, funds were raised to build the Monroe County Public Library which opened in November, 1959.
Sponsors: Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials in Cooperation with Monroe County Public Library and The Florida Historical Society
Location:Old Bahia Honda Bridge, near dock. Bahia Honda State Recreation Area.
County: Monroe
City: Bahia Honda Key
Description: Since about 1870, botanists from all over the world have been visiting Bahia Honda Key to study the plants brought here by the birds, the hurricane winds, and the ocean waves from all the islands of the West Indies and the Caribbean Sea. The very rare plants that are found growing as a native plant only on Bahia Honda Key are the West Indies satinwood, or yellowwood tree (Zanthoxylum flavum), the Catesbaea, Jamaica morning-glory (Jaquemontia jamaicensis), and wild dilly (Mimusops). Beautiful and colorful plants from the West Indies known in the Keys and South Florida areas are the Geiger tree (orange flowers), wild Alamanda (yellow flowers), sea-lavender (fragrant white flowers and ash-gray leaves), key spiderlily (white flowers), bay cedar (yellow flower), and the thatch and silver palms.
Sponsors: Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials
Location:on U.S. 1 between Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys
County: Monroe
City: Florida Keys
Description: Oil magnate Henry M. Flagler first visited Florida in 1878. Realizing Florida's potential for growth, he developed railroads and hotels which transformed the eastern seaboard. The Florida East Coast Railroad reached Miami in 1896 and soon was completed to the Homestead area. Years of planning were devoted to determining the feasibility of extending the F.E.C. Railroad to Key West which was labeled "Flagler's Folly." Construction was begun in 1904 under the supervision of Joseph C. Meredith. After Meredith's death in 1909, William J. Krome guided the project. Viaducts, trestles, and bridges were constructed under harrowing conditions. Thousands of workers battled against insects, hurricanes, and intense heat as well as food and water shortages. On January 21, 1912, the Overseas Extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad was completed. The next day, Henry Flagler's special train arrived in Key West. Flagler died in 1913, but his Overseas Extension continued to carry visitors to Key West until 1935, when the Labor Day hurricane damaged the line beyond repair. A portion of the Overseas Extension near Tea Table Key was among the surviving remnants of this great engineering project which helped to open the Florida Keys to tourism.
Sponsors: sponsored by senator richard r. renick in cooperation with department of state
Location:Atlantic Blvd, Near White St.
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: Near this site lie the remains of 294 African men, women and children who died in Key West in 1860. In the summer of that year the U.S. Navy rescued 1,432 Africans from three American-owned ships engaged in the illegal slave trade. Ships bound for Cuba were intercepted by the U.S. Navy, who brought the freed Africans to Key West where they were provided with clothing, shelter and medical treatment. They had spent weeks in unsanitary and inhumane conditions aboard the slave ships. The U.S. steamships Mohawk, Wyandott and Crusader rescued these individuals from the Wildfire, where 507 were rescued; the William, where 513 were rescued; and the Bogota, where 417 survived. In all, 294 Africans succumbed at Key West to various diseases caused by conditions of their confinement. They were buried in unmarked graves on the present day Higgs Beach where West Martello Tower now stands. By August, more than 1,000 survivors left for Liberia, West Africa, a country founded for former American slaves, where the U.S. government supported them for a time. Hundreds died on the ships before reaching Liberia. Thus, the survivors were returned to their native land, Africa, but not to their original homes on that continent.
Location:111 Front Street
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: Built in 1890 as quarters for Navy officers, the Little White House later was used by American Presidents William Howard Taft, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Truman used the facility as a vacation home and functioning White House between 1946 and 1952. National legislation was drafted and official government business was conducted daily from the site. Perhaps the most important of these actions occurred on December 5, 1951, when Truman enacted a Civil Rights Executive Order requiring federal contractors to hire minorities. The house is considered the birthplace of the U. S. Department of Defense and the U. S. Air Force as a result of the Key West Accords of 1948. President Eisenhower used the site in 1956 while recuperating from a heart attack. In 1961, the house was the venue for a summit between President Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan during the Bay of Pigs incident. Kennedy returned in 1962 after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Secretary of State Colin Powell and foreign leaders held an international summit here in 2001. The Little White House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Location:Passover Ln near Angela St.
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: Key West Cemetery was founded in 1847 following a hurricane the previous year that destroyed the earlier cemetery located near present day Higgs Beach. To protect from future flooding, the 19-acre cemetery was located here on Solares Hill, the highest natural elevation in Key West. An estimated 75,000 people are interred here, divided among parcels that reflect the cultural diversity that continues to characterize the city of Key West today. The cemetery contains a historic Catholic section, Jewish section, the U.S.S. Maine Plot dedicated in 1900, and the Los Martires de Cuba, a memorial for those who fought in the 1868 Cuban revolution. In addition to these defined areas, African Americans, Cubans and Americans, rich and poor, are interred throughout. In-ground and crypt style graves range from simple concrete copings filled with soil to elaborate monuments. Plot enclosures of wrought iron, wood, or concrete were often used to mark family plots.
Location:510 Greene Street
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: The City of Key West acquired this lot in 1871 and built a wood-frame city hall, dedicating it on July 4, 1876, during the nation’s Centennial. That building stood until it burned down in the devastating fire of 1886. The City then constructed this brick edifice between 1890 and 1892. Scott, McDermott & Higgs designed the structure, while Russell & Harvey built it. The ground floor - with wide arches and supporting columns - accommodated market stalls, then fire engines. The upper floor, dominated by the City Commission chambers, also housed City offices. Over the years, the building was altered, including the removal of the bell tower. Monroe County acquired the property in 1965 to house its juvenile court. In 1974, the State of Florida acquired the building, and the Historic Florida Keys Preservation Board spearheaded its restoration. The bell tower was restored in 1976 during the Bicentennial. Restoration efforts continued through the 1980’s, leading to the rededication of Old City Hall in 1991. Sweeping granite stairs and an ornate iron balustrade distinguish the building’s entrance, while high ceilings, large windows, and wainscoting grace the historic interior.
Location:601 Howard England Way, Fort Zachery Taylor Historic State Park
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: Fort Taylor was constructed in 1845 as part of the Third Tier System of Defense which called for the establishment of masonry fortresses constructed along America’s coastline to prevent Sea attacks on the United States. This fort was an important defensive structure in the United States because of its command over the waters over the Straits of Florida and of the Gulf of Mexico. When completed, the fort was three stories tall, held and 140 cannon and was home to almost 450 soldiers. Fort Taylor remained under federal control during the Civil War and was the headquarters of the US Navy East Gulf Coast Blockading Squadron. The current form of the fort is largely the result of alterations made in 1898, including the removal of the upper two tiers, filling case-mates with sand and obsolete ordinance, and construction of modern rifled artillery emplacements Battery Adair and Battery Osceola. Fort Taylor continued to defend the United States during the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. The Fort’s service to the nation ended in 1947. Fort Taylor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Historic National Landmark.
Sponsors: Sponsored by the Florida Park Service and the Florida Department of State
Location:101 Copeland Ave S
County: Monroe
City: Everglades
Description: This building was completed by April 1940 on land donated in May 1939 by the estate of Barron Gift Collier, founder of the county which bears his name and its largest landholder. The congregation at that time was Presbyterian, officially established in 1926, and had met in various places in the city. Before then, various visiting pastors served the area, the first being the Reverend George W. Gatewood in 1888. One condition of the gift of land was that the structure be erected before October 1, 1940 and that the church be non-denominational. Both conditions were met when the dedication ceremony took place on May 5th, 1940. The town was a Collier company town with buildings constructed of ship lap siding, a tin roof, and flooring made of Dade County pine. A fellowship hall and breezeway to the southwest was added in the late 1950s. The digital carillon was installed in 1990 and chimes hourly. On September 4, 2007, Everglades City proclaimed the church to be historically preserved because it “provides links with the aspirations and attainments of the City’s pioneers and their descendents.” The bell tower and narthex were repaired in June, 2008, as the first step in a complete restoration of the building.
Location:600 White Street, Key West
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: This 1903 armory was described as "an unusual wood-frame building," and was one of the few armories built in the South due to lack of funds following the Civil War (1861-1865). The Italianate-style. Key West Armory incorporate an aarched entrace, twin, six-sided pointed turrets, a tall parapet as well as towers and cupolas. Key West was an important Union Base during the Civil War. Volunteer troops that helped defend Key West from the Confederates were known as the Key West Rifles and then, in 1888 as the Island City Guards. The Armory was built for their descendants, the Monroe County Militia / 438th Company Florida National Guard. It housed these troops and their armament. The Armory served as a training facility in World Wards I and II and later became a community center. Monroe County contracted John T. and A. Bruce Sawyer to build the Armory in 1902, as designed by T.F. Russell. The State of Florida later refunded the money, which was used to build County Road, now known as Flagler Avenue. Restoration efforts began in the 1970s prior to the building's lease to Monroe County. Management of the state-owned armory was turned over to the Historic Florida Keys Preservation Board in 1994.
Sponsors: Sponsored by the Historic Florida Keys Foundation and the Florida Department of State.
Location:1100 Simonton St.
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: The Gato Cigar Factory was constructed by Eduardo H. Gato in 1916. This Neo-Classiscal Revival, poured- concrete structure with a large central courtyard was constructed after a earlier wood frame factory on this site burned. Numerous windows provided much needed light for the workers. It is also one of the earliest American integrated workplaces where Cuban, African, and Bahamian- Americans, and whites worked side by side while their children attended the same school. Small cottages were built near the factory to house the workers, and became an area known as Gatoville. The factory was a political center as workers raised funds to support efforts to free Cuba from Spain. The cigar industry was critical to Key West’s economy just before the 20th century, but declined in the early 1900’s as cigar manufacturers moved to Tampa. In 1942 the Gato factory was sold to the Department of the Navy for use as a military barracks and cafeteria, and later served as the Navy Commissary until 1989. In 1998 Monroe County Obtained the property, and in 2001 completed a rehabilitation to make the building
Sponsors: The Historic Florida Keys Foundation and the Florida Department of State
Location:451 52nd Street Gulf
County: Monroe
City: Marathon
Description: Established in 1955, St. Columba Episcopal Church has occupied this building since 1960. Between 1977 and 1982, nineteen dalle de verre, or faceted stained glass windows, were installed in the church. This technique uses thick pieces of colored glass bound together with a cement or epoxy mixture. French artist Auguste Labouret is credited with creating the first dalle de verre windows in the 1930s. One of his first panels, “The Magi,” was displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Studios in the United States began manufacturing dalle de verre windows in the 1940s, and faceted glass became popular afterwards. Like medieval stained glass, dalle de verre windows produce stunning visual effects. However, their technique precludes the creation of detailed and realistic images. Instead, faceted glass lends itself to bold, more abstract treatments. St. Columba’s stained glass windows offer a symbolic and impressionistic portrayal of the Seven Days of Creation and the life of Christ. The church’s St. Columba window pictures the Irish missionary St. Columba, while the Loch Ness Monster window depicts the beast that, according to legend, St. Columba prevented from devouring a swimmer.
Sponsors: St. Columba Episcopal Church and the Florida Department of State
Location:336 Duval Street
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: Built about 1838 and moved to this location after the hurricane of 1846, The Patterson-Baldwin House in believed to be one of the oldest buildings in Key West. The Classical Revival style house is reputed to have been built, but never occupied by Alexander Patterson, a prominent Key West citizen and mayor. Various sources indicate that the Pickney family lived in the house and that Mrs. Pickney’s sister Madame Passaloque, taught classes here until 1860, giving the huse the distinction of being he first school in Key West. John Baldwin, who twice served as mayor of Key West, purchased the house in 1860. The property remained in the Baldwin family for more than 100 years. The house was painstakingly restored by Edward B. Knight in 1962. At first only the houses front side was restored to provide a “before and after” picture of how it could one day look. This award winning demonstration received national publicity and helped spark the historic preservation movement in Key West.
Sponsors: Sponsored by Edward B. Knight and the Florida Department of State.
Location:1327 Duval Street
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: This house, with its elaborate Queen Anne style detailing, was built c. 1894 by E.H. Gato, Sr. (1847-1926). The Gato family was one of Key West’s most prominent families, and three generations of the family lived here until 1951. Eduardo H. Gato was a Cuban patriot who helped finance Cuba’s revolutionary leaders including Jose Marti, who fought for freedom from Spain. Gato came to Key West in 1874. He was instrumental in Key West’s evolution from a small fishing town to one of Florida’s wealthiest cities through his development of the Cuban tobacco industry. He built Key West’s foremost cigar factory, where millions of cigars, using tobacco imported from Cuba, were hand rolled and boxed for shipment worldwide. In 1917, he built the first fireproof cigar factory on Simonton Street and constructed a nearby “city” of frame cigar workers’ cottages, the Barrio de Gato, or Gatoville. Gato was president of the E.H. Gato Cigar Co.; vice-president of the Key West Bank; and proprietor of the Key West Street Car, a horse-drawn system. Eduardo H. Gato Jr. (1874-1948) served as vice-president of the E.H. Gato Cigar Company and oversaw the extensive Gato real estate holdings.
Sponsors: The Santiago Family and the Florida Department of State
Location:319 Duval Street
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: The Martin Hellings House, constructed c.1892 by Captain Martin L. Hellings, is one of only a few historic houses in Key West not built of wood. Hellings was a native of Pennsylvania and a Union soldier in the Civil War. In 1881, Hellings married Eleanor Curry, daughter of a prominent Key West merchant family. In 1888, he became cable manager of the International Ocean Telegraph Company in Key West, an important position at the time, as telegraphs were the only means of rapid long distance communication. Before and during the Spanish American War, he operated an intelligence service for the U.S. Government and provided the White House War Room with the latest news from Cuba. After Martin Hellings’ death in 1908, the house was converted into professional offices, and for many years housed the offices of Judge W. Hunt Harris. The Key West Woman's Club (KWWC), established in 1915, purchased the building in 1940. The KWWC founded and maintained Key West’s first public library in this building. The KWWC continues its mission of volunteer service and financial support to local non-profits while preserving this Queen Anne style brick mansion for future generations.
Sponsors: Key West Woman's Club
Location:291 Front Street
County: Monroe
City: Key West
Description: On September 13, 1833, the United States government purchased this harbor-front lot. The Naval Depot was authorized by an Act of Congress on July 21, 1852. Capt. J. M. Scarritt and Lt. J. J. Philbrick supervised the construction of this building. By 1856 the brick walls were laid in common bond pattern, and the roof was completed in 1861. During the Civil War, the Union’s West Indies Blockade Squadron was headquartered here. Distinguished by a buttressed brick pier arcade of 17 bays, the Naval Depot retains its original lookout cupola, masonry exterior, gable roof, and interior loft space. Known as Building Number One, it served as the Naval Administration Building until 1932. On December 15, 1932, the offices of the 7th Lighthouse District opened in this building. By 1939 the Lighthouse Service, as part of the U.S. Coast Guard, continued to use the Naval Depot as its Key West Station headquarters. In recognition of its significance in America’s military history through the Civil War, Spanish-American War and two world wars, the Naval Depot and Storehouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and remains Key West’s oldest brick structure.
Sponsors: Building One Key West, LLC