Start: Key West, FL
Finish: Key West, FL
Miles Today: 10
Miles to Date: 9210
Trooper Mileage: 178131
Although the Hemingway House is probably the most famous of the historical homes in Key West, there are many others. There is a house called the "Audobon House", where James Audobon spent a number of years illustrating the local flora and fauna. If any of you visit Key West, this is another place to see, faithfully restored with the original furnishings, and heavily appointed with original Audobon works.
OK, time to send the kids off to their Sony Playstations where they can indulge in some healthy fantasies, like blasting blood-drooling zombies to smithereens, in order to protect their young impressionable minds from the following erotic material which might be inappropriate. While wandering the gardens of the Audobon House, I caught this pair in flagrante delicto (OK, Lynn and all you other lawyers out there can correct my Latin spelling) amongst the flower beds.
Towards the end of the day I wandered down to the Shipwreck Museum. A tour of this place fills you in on the early history of Key West. I'll try to summarize it here.
The Florida Straights were the primary shipping channel between cities on the Gulf of Mexico, such as New Orleans, and ports on the eastern US seaboard and Europe. Given the frequent occurrence of hurricanes and thunderstorms in the region, ships would frequently run aground on the reefs in the area. As a result, the industry of "wrecking", or salvage operations, boomed in Key West to the point where it was the primary industry. It was so lucrative that for a good part of the 19th century Key West had the largest per capita income, and the largest number of millionaires, of any city in the US.
The most successful businessman to make money in the salvage business was Asa Tift, who actually built, in 1833, what became the Hemingway House. The Shipwreck Museum to the left is actually one of Asa Tift's warehouses. He owned much of the waterfront real estate.
The wrecking and salvage industry was actually highly regulated by the courts. The wreckers were awarded anywhere from 15 to 40 percent of the salvaged goods, depending on the difficulty and danger involved in recovering the materials. In addition to recovering material goods of value, the wreckers also rescued the passengers and crew from the grounded ships, thereby saving many lives while in the process of getting rich.
The shipping channel was so important that a major fortification, Fort Zachary Tyler, was built to protect the harbor and sea lanes (piracy was another ongoing industry at the time). This fort was the southern-most fortification to remain in the control of the Union forces during the Civil War.
Back to the current day - in the evening, the bar tables along the pier (formerly owned by Asa Tift) fill up with locals and tourists. Numerous sloops, schooners and catamarans glide quietly by, returning to their moorings for the evening. The lights begin to come on in the multimillion dollar houses on the island across the channel. Live music is performed, street venders ply their trade, people drink and eat. But, basically, everyone is here for the sunset.