Key West

Key West, Florida Map

Key West, Florida Map

As mentioned in a previous post, Becky and I took some time off after Thanksgiving to travel south.  We didn’t find the best weather, but we still had a good time.  We spent the weekend after Thankgiving in Atlanta and then drove down to Key West, FL on Monday.  We basically had three days at Key West (Tues, Wed, Thurs) before driving back to Atlanta on Friday.

Key West East Martello Museum

Key West East Martello Museum

This is our second trip to Key West in two years.  We went there last year at this time and enjoyed it as well.  This year we had somewhat of a heads up on what we had seen and liked and knew a little more about where to go.  Last year we visited the Key West Garden Club in the West Martello, Hemingway’s HomeTruman’s Little White House and Fort Zachery Taylor.  This year we visited East Martello Fort Museum, the Butterfly Conservatory as well as returning to Fort Zachary Taylor and doing some additional neighborhood exploration.  We enjoyed the live blues music at the Sunset Pier and enjoyed the <warning!> raunchy songs and humor by Pete & Wayne at Sloppy Joes.

Key West is an old city, having gone through a long history of settlements and occupations.  One history says that it was known by the early name “Bone Island” because early indians in the area used it as a burial site.  Militarily it was strategic to the Spanish, French and British before becoming part of the United States.  In the Civil War it was held by the Union Army despite its location deep in the South.  Its fortune has risen and fallen through various economic booms including shipbuilding and the harvesting of turtles, sponges and conch.  It has been an artist conclave and currently thrives on the tourist trade.  In one day we saw three mega cruise ships visiting the port.

Tying this back to my thoughts on communities, there are clear dividing lines between the old neighborhoods and the new.  The older neighborhoods have narrow streets and the homes and businesses are intermixed and pushed out close to the sidewalk.  Duval Street, the main tourist area, is in one of these older neighborhoods and with many first floor shops under apartments.  Intermixed are older homes that have either been converted to businesses or are run as Bed & Breakfast establishments. 

There have been attempts to create public plazas and parks, but we noticed that they were mostly vacant when there wasn’t a specific event there.  This seems to be the case even when they are adjacent to the busy, thriving areas of Key West.

Fairfield Inn, Key West, FL  -  Courtyard Pool

Fairfield Inn, Key West, FL – Courtyard Pool

The new neighborhoods are more of the fortress style.  The condos and larger hotels are mostly walled off and have little public space.  Even the smaller chain motels, such as the Fairfield Inn where we stayed, have turned in with all of their ammenities hidden within the facility.   Many of the newer homes have gated courtyards or walls and fences at their perimeter.  We walked through the properties at a couple of homes converted to Bed & Breakfasts and they have largely ignored the formerly grand entrances at the fronts in favor of developing the rear yards as the center of attention.

As tourists that like to walk, we felt much more comfortable walking in the older neighborhoods where locals and tourists are active and visible.  Particularly after dark, many of the deserted streets in the redeveloped neighborhoods become uncomfortable.  From a business standpoint I can see advantages.  We were “pushed” towards the active areas.  Perhaps the locals prefer that the tourists are uncomfortable and are not walking their streets.   But, I also noticed that those untraveled streets were where the winos hung out when they were not actively panhandling.

Becky and I will probably go back to Key West again.  We enjoyed it.  It will be interesting to see what influences from Key West can be incorporated into the Sand Hill Farm Development.

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