Key West

Alicia Zuckerman / WLRN

Judy Blume turns 80 today (February 12), and she celebrated all day yesterday at the nonprofit bookstore she and her husband George run in Key West. It was hard to keep track of how many fans who showed up called her their "childhood hero" (present company included). 

Blume works four days a week at the Books & Books at The Studios of Key West, including all day every Sunday.

Larry Blackburn

The story of Elena Hoyos and the man who called himself Count Carl von Cosel is a Key West legend.

It's a true story if unbelievable in its macabre details. And it's been retold in histories, websites — and on stage. A new version of a musical about the story, Undying Love, is opening in Key West. On Valentine's Day.

More than seven years after someone swiped a 17th century gold bar from a museum in Key West, federal prosecutors have indicted two men for stealing the artifact.

Miami Herald

Florida lawmakers are making final preparations for the 2018 legislative session, which is set to begin Tuesday,  Jan. 9. There will be a lot on the docket for both chambers, but there's no question that this session will take place under the dark cloud of sexual harassment controversies. A couple seats are empty from lawmakers who resigned after being embroiled in such cases. 

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The author of A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie did not set any of his well-known plays in Key West.

But the island was his primary residence from the 1940s until he died in 1983. That’s a lot longer than a certain other famous writer.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The winter solstice, Dec. 21, is marked every year as Homeless Persons' Memorial Day. It's the longest night of the year.

Every year Key West holds a ceremony remembering those who died during the year. This year 71 names were read.

They ranged in age from infants to 95.

But only nine of them were homeless. The rest were people still listed on the county forms as "paupers" - those whose remains went unclaimed. So the county takes responsibility for cremation and their remains are placed in the crypt owned by the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.

floridakeysaquariumencounters.com

A resort and a major attraction are reopening about three months after Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys.

Tourists can return to Islamorada’s Amara Cay Resort and Marathon’s Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters on Friday.

The Keys reopened to visitors Oct. 1, and most tourism facilities in less-affected Key Largo and Key West quickly recovered. But many properties elsewhere in the Keys were significantly impacted.

Mark Hedden

People have asked me a lot since Hurricane Irma if it was scary to go through the storm. I was very fortunate to spend the storm in a strong concrete building, on high ground. And Key West was very fortunate, only 20 miles away from where the eye crossed the island chain we were spared the worst of the winds and didn’t see much of a storm surge.

City of Key West

For years tourists have flocked to take photos at Key West's Southernmost Point Marker.

That came to a halt when the concrete buoy was damaged during Hurricane Irma. But the buoy is photo-ready again.

The Florida Keys News Bureau reports that the City of Key West hired Danny Acosta, the original artist, and artist Henry DelValle to repaint the graphics on the Florida Key's most photographed tourism icon.

The colorful marker represents the southernmost point of land in the continental United States.

Darrick Akey

After Hurricane Irma, the iconic "Welcome to Key West" sign that greets drivers who reach the Southernmost city via US 1 mysteriously disappeared.

It was reportedly spotted on the ground right after the storm — but then was gone.

Thursday morning, a couple showed up at the Key West Express ferry docks in Fort Myers, wanting to ship cargo to the island, according to a post on the ferry's Facebook page.

The ferry company agreed to take it back home where it arrived on Thursday, greeted by Key West police officers.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

In some parts of the Keys, people are still salvaging what they can of their belongings, or figuring out where they will live.

In Key West, local and state leaders gathered Wednesday to send one message: they are open for business.

"Restaurants are open. Hotels are open. Every tourist in the country, in the world, needs to come back to Key West and the Florida Keys," said Gov. Rick Scott.

He spoke at an oceanfront hotel flanked by Key West officials and tourism promoters who were carrying conch shells and waving Conch Republic flags.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The cafeteria at Horace O'Bryant School in Key West was once again a cacophony of voices  Wednesday as students at the elementary and middle school returned to their classrooms for the first time since Hurricane Irma.

Out front, Principal Christina McPherson was greeting students and the parents dropping them off.

"We're welcoming back 1,100 students into the building, and we're anxious to start the day and get everybody back to a new normal," McPherson said.

She said the full student body was returning — along with a few additions.

Hurricane Irma forced hundreds of thousands of Floridians from their homes, including residents at military bases. Key West and Jacksonville saw some of the worst effects of the storm, and are also home to major military installations. But now the bases are returning to normal.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West has seen a lot of hurricanes over the years — but the island itself hasn't had a direct hit since 1919 (though there were a couple of near misses, with Hurricane Georges moving across the Lower Keys in 1998 and Wilma swamping the island from the west in 2005).

Some islanders attribute that string to the supernatural - the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto.

Dedicated in 1922 by the Catholic community in the Keys to honor Sister Louis Gabriel, the grotto is located next to what is now the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea. 

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Monroe County announced this week plans to reconfigure a dog park in Key West believed to be above the graves of Africans who were rescued from the slave trade in 1860.

The dog playground is across the street from an area already recognized as a burial yard.

While slavery was still legal in the U.S. in 1860, importing them was outlawed in 1807.

“But people kept doing it, especially Americans,” said Corey Malcom, director of archaeology for the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West.

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