Florida history

Monroe County Public Library

Key West residents are following William Hackley's every move - even though he has been dead for 150 years. 

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West is known for celebrating its history. But until recently, the graves of two of the island's most influential African-American citizens were unmarked.

Now that's been rectified by the efforts of the city — which runs the cemetery — and the Historic Florida Keys Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money for restoration from cemetery tours.

David Santiago / El Nuevo Herald

Fidel Castro's death will no doubt spark a robust debate about what Cuba would be like today if he had never come to power in 1959.

But here's another important question: What would Miami be today without Castro and the thousands of exiles his communist revolution drove to South Florida?

Associated Press

Miami’s Janet Reno,  the first woman to be United States attorney general, died Monday at 78 from complications connected to Parkinson’s disease.

Her eight-year tenure in that office brought some of the country's most high-profile issues to her desk including the seizure and return of Elián González to Cuba, the capture of the Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and the 51-day Waco siege standoff in which 76 people died.

St. Augustine can add another site to its list of nationally recognized historic landmarks.

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.

With temperatures in Northeast Florida regularly soaring to the upper nineties during the summer, a blacksmith shop might seem like the last place someone would want to visit.

But that’s precisely what St. Augustine’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park added to its historical attractions last weekend.


Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  Indian Key at first appears like a typical South Florida island — mangroves on the shore, buttonwoods inland.

  But Brad Bertelli sees a different place. He sees Indian Key from almost two centuries back.

"In its heyday, the island was home to as many as 150 people," Bertelli said. "There were 45 buildings. There was a hotel with a nine-pin bowling alley. Billiards tables, restaurant, saloon."

Monroe County Public Library

  The Monroe County Public Library system has five branches that are spread across 100 miles, from Key Largo to Key West.

But the library's collection has traveled much much farther. It can go anywhere with an internet connection.

  In 2007, the library started posting images from its history collection online, on the photo-sharing site Flickr. Recently, that site surpassed 16 million views.

Nominations are being taken for the next representatives of Florida in the National Statuary Hall.

The collection of one hundred statues — two from each state — is housed in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C. Florida’s current representatives are Dr. John Gorrie, credited with inventing refrigeration and air conditioning, and General Edmund Kirby Smith, “an army officer and an educator,” according to the Architect of the Capitol’s website.

Tim Chapman

  When photographer Tim Chapman retired from The Miami Herald in 2012, he had an archive dating back 40 years. Chapman documented some of the most significant moments in South Florida history. Now, he's found a home for that archive, at the HistoryMiami museum. That donation — and Chapman's career — is celebrated in a show called Newsman now on display at the museum.

  Chapman said he never changed over his 40-year career, even as photographic technology and the newspaper business changed dramatically.

Millions of years of Florida's history are lying on a table in Paulette McFadden's office at the University of Florida in Gainesville. It's in long metal tubes containing several feet of sediment from Horseshoe Beach, a community on Florida's Gulf coast.

"This core," McFadden says, "actually spans about 30 million years."

Monroe County Public Library

  The Schooner Western Union was built in Key West in the late 1930s as a cable tender — a repair ship for telegraph lines.

Now the 92-foot wooden boat is owned by a nonprofit. Most recently, it's been used for sunset sails and wedding charters.

But it needs repair. And the state of Florida just agreed to spend $500,000 to fix it up.

  The Western Union is the official flagship of the state of Florida (and the city of Key West).

Michael Marrero

Key West is a decidedly upscale place. Simple wooden homes sell for $1 million or more. Fancy boutiques outnumber bodegas.

But a new play written by a Key West native recaptures the rougher side of island history.

Michael Marrero started working on "Locura" 15 years ago.

"A lot of people forget how Key West used to be before all the tourists and the cruise ships," Marrero said. "As soon as tourism comes into a place and the place is gentrified, it tends to idolize what the past was and create it in a sanitary version."

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

  For almost a century, Key West's Bayview Park has been home to memorials to both sides of the Civil War. A pavilion honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors was built in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the state of New York installed a memorial to Union soldiers of that state who died while stationed on the island.

  Now the city is adding to that number with a statue depicting and honoring the African-American soldiers who were recruited to the Union Army from Key West.

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