Florida history

State Archives of Florida

What does Cyrus Teed have in common with people like Marjorie Rawlings, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Flagler and Juan Ponce de Leon? 

He was not from Florida. But he came to Florida, like the names listed above, and left an indelible mark on the state's history. 

The first thing you should know about Teed is that he was likely a lunatic. Or so thought many of the people who challenged him in the 19th and early 20th century. And by challenging, I mean people who wanted to fight, sue or even kill Teed.

Ida Woodward Barron Collection / Monroe County Public Library

  In Key West, stories about carousing in bars can be legendary. Now they will be preserved as history.

The Key West Art & Historical Society is planning an exhibit to open Nov. 20 called Bars, Brews & Blues: A History of Carousing in Key West

Arthur Rothstein / Arthur Rothstein Archive

Arthur Rothstein was a young man in the 1930s. He originally wanted to be a doctor. But it was the Depression and he went to work for the Farm Security Administration, documenting American workers and the conditions they faced.

In 1938, that assignment took him to Key West. The city suffered more than most in the Depression, declaring bankruptcy and essentially handing itself over to the state. The state, in turn, brought in a New Deal administrator who decided the island should remake itself as a tourist mecca.

Monroe County Public Library

  Eighty years ago, hurricanes weren't given human names. So the storm that devastated the Upper Keys in 1935 is known simply by the day it swept across Islamorada: the Labor Day Hurricane.

Islamorada in 1935 was a small village of a few hundred people, scraping through the Depression growing Key limes and pineapples. The village was also the site of a camp for hundreds more: relief workers building a highway. Most of those workers were World War I veterans.

Florida Cowboys Week: Part One

To Mary K. Herron and others, the history of black cowboys in Florida is a venerable element of the state's past.

The John F. Kennedy Bunker, located on Peanut Island in Palm Beach County, was hastily constructed in the early 1960s to protect President Kennedy and his staff in the event of a nuclear strike. A local team of architects, preservationists and fundraisers are on a mission to save this historic site.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/275723

A special session for the Florida State Legislature starts Monday in Tallahassee. And that's a good a time as any to revisit the history of the 200,000-city, which used to be just a town of the Old South.

Mark Silva, former Tallahassee bureau chief for the Miami Herald, wrote about the capital's past in a National Geographic story

DeWolfe and Wood Collection / Monroe County Public Library

 In the '60s, '70s and '80s, waves of Cuban immigrants crossed the Florida Straits, seeking political freedom and economic opportunity. Soon they were starting their own businesses and winning political office, infusing Cuban culture into the DNA of a South Florida city.

The city was Key West. And this was the 1860s, '70s and '80s.

New Mission for Keys' Reef Lights: Historical Guideposts

Nov 26, 2014
Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

The reef lights along the Florida Keys are still owned by the U.S. Coast Guard -- but a nonprofit group hopes to take over their care and make them a 100-mile long museum of maritime history.

The Florida Keys Reef Lights Foundation is raising money to apply to the Coast Guard for ownership of five lights stretching from Carysfort Reef off Key Largo to Sand Key off Key West. The others are Alligator Reef off Islamorada, Sombrero Reef off Marathon and American Shoal off the Lower Keys.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/24482

The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables wasn't always a hotel. 

It was built in 1926 by a young developer named George Merrick, who's known as the founder of Coral Gables. 

The hotel became a place to host glamorous fashion shows, galas, golf tournaments and water shows in what was then the largest pool in the world.

At a loud party on the 13th floor of the hotel, a gangster named Thomas "Fatty" Walsh was shot and killed by another gangster. That murder yielded a lot of ghost rumors over the years.