Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Key West, Florida
Key West is a city located in Monroe County, Florida. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 25,478. This is an interesting comparison to the 1920 census that put the population at approximately 20,000. It is the county seat of Monroe County. Key West is known as the Southernmost City and also as the Conch Republic.
Key West is a seaport destination for many passenger cruise ships. The Key West International Airport provides airline service. Hotels and guesthouses are available for lodging. Many restaurants offer a choice of indoor or outdoor dining.
Key West has a large gay and lesbian population and is a popular international gay tourist destination. The Key West Business Guild is the nation's first and oldest continuous gay and lesbian chamber of commerce. Key West is known for its tolerance and acceptance and has adopted the diversity motto "One Human Family" to reflect a desire to treat all people with respect and dignity. Key West is home to many eccentric residents and visitors who have traveled to the end of the road (U.S. Highway 1) to find individual freedom.
The U.S. Navy has a large presence and occupies significant property in Key West. The Naval Air Station (NAS Key West) located on Boca Chica Key is an air combat training facility. President Harry S. Truman often stayed in Key West for rest and relaxation at the Truman Little White House during his presidency.
The city of Key West is on an island of the same name at the westernmost tip of the Florida Keys. It is also the southern terminus of U.S. 1. Key West is about 150 miles southwest of Miami, Florida and 90 miles north of Havana, Cuba.
In Pre-Columbian times Key West was inhabited by the Calusa people. The first European to visit was Ponce de Leon in 1521. As Florida became a Spanish colony, a fishing and salvage village with a small garrison was established here.
Florida returned to Spanish control 20 years later, but there was no official resettlement of the island. Informally the island was used by fishermen from Cuba and from the British Bahamas, who were later joined by others from the United States after the latter nation's independence. While claimed by Spain, no nation exercised de facto control over the community there for some time.
In 1815 the Spanish governor in Havana deeded the island of Key West to Juan Pablo Salas of Saint Augustine, Florida. After Florida was transferred to the United States, Salas sold the island to U.S. businessman John Simonton for $2,000 in 1821. Simonton divided the island into plots and sold some of them. There was already a town on a part of the island, with the inhabitants recognizing the authority of no nation. Simonton lobbied the U.S. Government to establish a naval base on the island, both to take advantage of the island's strategic location and to bring law and order to the town. In 1823 Commodore David Porter of the United States Navy West Indies Anti-Pirate Squadron took charge of Key West, which he ruled (but, according to some, exceeding his authority) as military dictator under martial law.
Major industries in Key West in the early 19th century included fishing, salt production, and most famously salvage. In 1860 wrecking made Key West the largest and richest city in Florida and the wealthiest town per capita in the U.S. A number of the inhabitants worked salvaging shipwrecks from nearby Florida reefs, and the town was noted for the unusually high concentration of fine furniture and chandeliers which the locals used in their own homes after salvaging them from wrecks.
During the American Civil War, while Florida joined the Confederate States of America, Key West remained in U.S. hands thanks to the Naval base. Fort Zachary Taylor, constructed from 1845 to 1866, was an important Key West outpost during the Civil War. Fort Jefferson, located about 68 miles from Key West on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas, served after the Civil War as the prison for Dr. Samuel A. Mudd convicted of conspiracy for setting the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.
In the late 19th century salt and salvage declined as industries, but Key West gained a thriving cigar making industry.
Key West was the last of the series of Keys connected to the Florida mainland by a series of railroad bridges completed in 1912, as the Overseas Railway extension of Henry M. Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 destroyed many of the railroad bridges, and drowned hundreds of Flagler's workers. The United States Federal Government then rebuilt the rail lines as an automobile highway, completed in 1938, which became an extension of United States Highway 1. The portion of US 1 through the Keys is called the Overseas Highway. Because Key West can be accessed by land, the southern point of the island is marked as the southernmost point of land on the United States mainland.
Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for many years, and graces the front of Sloppy Joe's bar t-shirts.
In 1982 Key West, and the rest of the Florida Keys, briefly declared its "independence" as the Conch Republic in a protest over a United States Border Patrol blockade. This blockade was setup on U.S.1 where the Northern end of the Overseas Highway meets the mainland at Florida City. This blockade was in response to the Mariel Boatlift. Flags, T-shirts and other merchandise representing the Conch Republic are still popular souvenirs for visitors to Key West.
Notable Key West Natives
- David Robinson - born in Key West while his father was stationed there with the Navy.
- George Mira - Native of Key West went on to star as a two-time All-American at the University of Miami in the early 1960s. He played Pro Football for San Francisco and the Miami Dolphins. His nickname was "The Matador".
- Boog Powell - Played for Key West High in the 1950s, went on to star for the Baltimore Orioles from 1961 to 1974 (his final three years were with the Indians and Dodgers). He had 339 career home runs.
Notable Key West Non-Natives
- Elizabeth Bishop
- Jimmy Buffett
- Mel Fisher
- Ernest Hemingway
- Jerry Herman
- James Merrill
- Wallace Stevens
- Harry Truman
- Tennessee Williams
Key West is located at 24°33'33" North, 81°47'3" West (24.559166, -81.784031)1. The maximum elevation above sea level is about 16 feet (5 m), known as Solares Hill. Key West Island is about 4 miles (6 km) long and 2 miles (3 km) wide; since the late 20th century it has been artificially expanded to the north.
Key West is the southernmost city in the contiguous 48 states, as seen in picture (see Extreme Points for more information.)
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 25,478 people, 11,016 households, and 5,463 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,653.3/km² (4,285.0/mi²). There are 13,306 housing units at an average density of 863.4/km² (2,237.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 84.94% White, 9.28% African American, 0.39% Native American, 1.29% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.86% from other races, and 2.18% from two or more races. 16.54% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 11,016 households out of which 19.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.7% are married couples living together, 8.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 50.4% are non-families. 31.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.23 and the average family size is 2.84.
In the city the population is spread out with 16.0% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 37.1% from 25 to 44, 26.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 39 years. For every 100 females there are 122.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 126.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $43,021, and the median income for a family is $50,895. Males have a median income of $30,967 versus $25,407 for females. The per capita income for the city is $26,316. 10.2% of the population and 5.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 11.5% of those under the age of 18 and 11.3% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Attractions, events, recreation, and culture
Rent a bicycle and explore the history and architecture of Old Town Key West. Walking tours including a tour of the unusual Key West Cemetery are available. The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square is a daily spectacle for visitors and residents. Boat excursions and tours provide a great way to view Key West from the water.
The Tennessee Williams Theatre is a performing arts center, a civic center, and a community center.
Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden is a one acre garden resembling a lush, predominantly green, rainforest. It is an exhibit of wild nature’s artistry in a woodland garden.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory features a 5,000-square-foot glass-domed tropical butterfly habitat.
The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum showcases gold, silver, and treasure recovered from shipwrecks around the world.
Mingle with the locals, shop, and dine at the Key West Historic Seaport at the Key West Bight.
The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum preserves the history of the Key West Lighthouse built in 1847.
Popular annual events include:
- Conch Republic Independence Celebration - April 23
- Red Ribbon Bed Race - April
- Survivors Party - May
- Queen Mother Pageant - May
- PrideFest - June
- Cuban-American Heritage Festival - June
- Hemingway Days Festival - July
- WomenFest - September
- Fantasy Fest - October
- Goombay Celebration - October
- Parrot Heads in Paradise Convention - November
- Boat and Holiday Parade - December
- City of Key West official site
- Harry S. Truman Little White House
- Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
- Tennessee Williams Theatre performing arts center
- Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society museum
- Live Duval Street webcam
- Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden
- Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
- Wikitravel for Key West
- Key West Jobs City, State, County and Local Business Employment listings.
- Key West Booking and information by local Key West residents. Extensive restaurant, gallery, and attraction sections.
- Key West Business Guild Gay Guide
- Gay and Lesbian Community Center
- Photo-Gallery (mit Diashow)
- Key West Florida Adventure Guide - Local attractions, museums, resorts, recreation and special events.
- Scuba Key West - About scuba diving in Key West.
- Photos of Key West - Terra Galleria
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