February 28, 2022
Key West is a special place. It stands at the southernmost point in the continental United States and at the starting point (Mile 0) of U.S. Highway 1. Key West was the home of writers Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. US President Harry Truman often spent winters here in a building preserved as the Little White House. Many other US Presidents — from Ulysses S. Grant in 1880 to Jimmy Carter in 2007 — have visited the island. President John F. Kennedy visited Key West in November 1962, a month after the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Key West is 90 miles from Cuba.
For most of us, the trip to Key West is a most memorable drive, a 2 1/2-hour excursion along a chain of islands (called “key’s) and bridges across shallow, turquoise waters.
The Florida Keys take their name from the Spanish word “cay” meaning a “reef,” which is appropriate since the keys are exposed portion of an ancient coral reef.
The corner of Whitehead and Fleming Streets marks mile marker 0 of U.S. Highway 1. Tour guides and souvenir shops can be found at this corner, as can adventurous long-haul travelers starting the road trip of their lives — 2,370 miles along U.S. Highway 1 from Key West to its northern terminus in Fort Kent, Maine.
On the corner as mile 0 stands the Monroe County courthouse, constructed in 1890.
I’ve been to Key West once before this trip, staying four days here in the summer of 2004 as I was doing a road trip comprising all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums/ballparks. Summer days here are obviously warmer than in February and I think they’re less crowded also. It was easy getting into Ernest Hemingway’s house back in the summer of 2004 without waiting in line — no such luck in February 2022.
One thing that surprised me about Key West was the fact that classic homes were being built here as far back as the 1830s. The Patterson-Baldwin House, for example, was built in 1838 and was also used as the first schoolhouse in Key West.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1832. It stands catercorner to the Patterson-Baldwin House.
I took photos of the “Artist House” because it’s one of many homes on Key West that fly the Conch Republic flag. The “Conch Republic” was proclaimed by Key West Dennis Wardlow on April 23, 1982, as a tongue-in-cheek secession from the United States to protest the US Border Patrol’s establishment of a roadblock and inspection station along Highway 1. The “independence” of the Conch Republic lasted one minute, after which time the mayor duly surrendered to the United States and applied for 1 billion dollars in foreign aid!
A number of Key West homes feature prominent banyan trees. These trees, native to India, grow aerial prop roots from their upper limbs that extend downward to the ground until they burrow into the soil to form additional tree trunks for the plant. After many years of growth, a banyan tree in front of a house can include a dozen or more such trunks.
Here are several more photos of the many points of interest in Key West:
Duval Street is Key’s West’s main street, which in Conch Republic terms equates to fun bars, live music, and nightlife including Sloppy Joe’s, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and many others.
That’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed my photos. I know Key West is on the bucket list of many of you — don’t put it off any longer!
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.
All photos were taken by the author on February 24, 2022, except for the photos of the “Southernmost marker” and Ernest Hemingway’s house which were taken on July 1, 2004.
I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
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