A few documents of earlier times gives a view into early island life.

There are plenty of storytellers in Key West willing to share with you the island’s vast and fascinating history. We don’t want to duplicate their efforts. Instead, we at Key West Travel Guide are proud to offer early historical accounts, images, and documents related to the island.

Here is a wonderful glimpses into the past of the Florida Keys and Key West.

Key West: The Old and the New, by Jefferson B. Browne

Early, detailed account of Key West provides an interesting view into old Key West. Written

Souveneir Folder of Key West, by F. Johnson, 1920

Tourist souvenir from 1920 gives early account of the island. The city of Key West,


1513 – Island “discovered” by Ponce de Leon

1538 – Hernando de Soto stops en route to Florida in quest of gold and slaves

1815 – Island granted to Juan Pablo Salas by the Spanish governor of Florida

1821 – Florida becomes a U.S. territory (ceded from Spain)

1822 – Salas sells still-undeveloped island to John Simonton of Mobile for $2000; island become part of the USA

1823 – Commodore David Porter establishes U.S. naval base on island

1825 – First Key West lighthouse built

1828 – City of Key West incorporated

1831 – First cigar factory in Key West

1832 – Episcopal Church, first religious organization, established

1845 – Florida becomes a state; construction begins on Fort Taylor

1846 – Worst hurricane to hit Key West; two lighthouses swept away

1850 – Key West is richest city, per capita, in the U.S.; has wrecking fleet of 50 vessels

1859 – First major fire destroys business area

1861 – Florida secedes from the Union; next four years Key West is strategic blockade and supply base for Union forces

1862 – Construction begins on two Martello towers

1868 – Spain’s new conscription laws result in large Cuban migration

1869 – Key West becomes biggest cigar manufacturing city in U.S.

1886 – Worst fire in history rages for twelve hours and destroys about half the city

1888 – Key West’s cigar industry produces 100 million cigars in one year

1898 – Survivors and injured of the USS Maine brought from Havana to Key West; War with Spain declared; Squadron sails from Key West to blockade Cuba

1905 – Henry Flagler begins contruction on a railroad to connect Key West with mainland Florida

1906  – Major hurricane destroys railroad construction camps

1912 – Overseas Railway completed

1915 – Key West – Havana ferry for rail-cars established

1920 – First international air passenger service, Key West – Havana; First international air mail route established

1921 – Official end of the wrecking era

1927 – Key West airport designated first Airport of Entry in U.S.

1928 – Overseas highway and ferry system, Miami to Key West, opened; Ernest Hemingway first visits Key West

1934 – Key West goes bankrupt – placed under federal and state control for rehabilitation

1935 – Hurricane destroys Overseas railroad

1938 – New Overseas Highway opened

1939 – U.S. Naval Station re-activated

1942 – Water line from mainland completed

1946 – President Truman decides to create “Little White House” in Key West

1954 – Auto-passenger ferry to Havana established

1958 – Old Geiger House becomes first big restoration project

1960 – Havana Auto ceases operation

1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis

1967 – Desalinization Plant completed

1974 – Key West Naval Station disestablished

1975 – Fort Taylor area turned over to State as park site

1976-78 – Major renovation of Duval Street