The Southernmost Point of the United States is located in a corner of Key West that is marked with a concrete buoy. It’s not much to look at, but tourists line up to have their photograph taken by this marker. When our friends Mike and Karen were in town, we did the touristy thing and lined up as well.
One of the most interesting things about the Southernmost Point is that it’s located 90 miles from Cuba. And this speaks to some very strong connections that Cuba and Key West had prior to Fidel Castro’s regime. Commerce, fishing, cigars, gambling all left their mark on Key West. And more recently, Cuban refugee boats are found in the mangroves surrounding the area.
Although the railroad was ultimately not successful, the railroad bridge supports were used to build the Overseas Highway for cars and trucks. US -1 is clearly labeled with mile markers all the way from Key Largo to Key West over 42 bridges including the famous seven mile bridge. US-1, which starts in Maine, ends at Mile Marker Zero, literally the end of the road.
Continuing on the touristy trend, we visited the Ernest Hemingway House. If you are interested in late 1800’s architecture, Key West history, literature, sport fishing, gardens and/or cats (especially the six toed ones), this is a must stop. Hemingway moved to Key West in 1928, and into the house in 1931. He and his second wife came to Key West from Cuba, a country that played a significant role in his life and where he lived for a part of his life, to locate a new Ford Roadster that his wife’s uncle had purchased for the newly married couple. The car was delayed, and the couple moved into an apartment to wait for it. Ultimately, they fell in love with Key West and stayed until their divorce in 1940. Hemingway became an avid sports fisherman and wrote nine novels while living in Key West. He continued to visit in the 1940’s and 1950’s. This was clearly another significant place in his life.
Our next stop was the Mel Fisher Museum. Mel and his wife Dolores “Deo”, pioneers of the diving industry, decided to begin hunting for treasure in the late 1960’s. They searched for and found various shipwrecks but became very focused on finding the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, described as one of the richest shipwrecks ever lost. They moved to Key West to continue their search. The Atocha was a royal guard galleon carrying 40 tons of gold and silver which sunk during a hurricane in 1622. After both small and large finds indicating that they were close, Mel would greet his staff and anyone else by saying “Today’s the day” (that they would find the wreck of the Atocha). More than fifteen years after he begun his search, his team found the “Motherlode”; including gold, silver, precious stones and artifacts of 17th century shipboard life such as navigational instruments. The museum displays many examples of these. A fascinating story about one of many people who made (or tried to make) their living salvaging shipwrecks in this area,
The Southernmost Point has attracted many interesting and unique people in its time.