Key West

Key West's literary heritage is overwhelmingly associated with one writer: Ernest Hemingway. The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winner's former home is a popular museum. And every summer there's a look-alike contest where white-bearded men compete to look like Papa.

But recently, the island has turned to celebrating another 20th-century writer who made Key West his home: Tennessee Williams. 

Ken Stanek / Florida Keys News Service

Since 1987, Key West has hosted the international sail racing world each January. Quantum Race Week fills thousands of hotel rooms and provides footage that is shown all over the globe.

But the regatta's future is in question with the announcement Monday from Premiere Racing, the event's owner and organizer, that it is stepping aside.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Florida Keys have been under a moratorium on new hotel rooms for decades. But the islands are seeing a flood of new properties open, mostly through renovations and conversions.

In all, about 1,000 new rooms are being added or coming back on line after being closed for renovation and rebuilding. The Keys have a total of 15,000 lodging units, which includes hotel rooms, RV spots and short-term vacation rentals.

Walt Michot / Miami Herald

Diana Nyad’s most famous journey, her swim across the Florida Straits, started in Havana and ended in Key West. Her newest project – a one-woman stage show – is starting out on the island. 

The distance swimmer made international headlines when she came ashore in Key West on Labor Day 2013. It was her fifth attempt at the crossing. She was 64 years old.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

 While the Florida Keys may provide a fertile setting for crime fiction by the likes of Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall, in reality the islands are getting safer, according to statistics from local law enforcement agencies.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

After months of contentious debate and a 4-3 vote, the Key West city commission made a decision Tuesday night on a site for a new homeless shelter.

The site chosen was the same one recommended months ago by city staff. Last October, the commission deadlocked 3-3 on a decision to move there and told staff to explore opening a shelter at the city's transportation building on Palm Avenue.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The animal shelter run by the Florida Keys SPCA provides outdoor play areas for the dogs and cats in its care, runs spay-neuter clinics and generally tries to keep up with current approaches in humane treatment of animals. But it's a matter of making do in old quarters.

There are play yards so the dogs spend at least four hours a day outside. The cats have colonies with access to covered areas outside. But none of that is much help when the Keys get heavy rain, a common occurrence during subtropical summers.

For now, if you want to get married on Key West’s Smathers Beach - a two-mile stretch along the Atlantic - all you have to do is show up.

Soon that may change. The city government is working on new guidelines that will require a license and proof of insurance for those who conduct business on the city’s beaches and in its parks.

Phyllis Rose

Key West’s literary community was already gathered over the weekend for the annual Literary Seminar when they learned they had lost one of their own. Novelist Robert Stone died Saturday in Key West. He was 77.

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.