Key West Essay

982 words - 4 pages

Key West

Key West is many people's paradise. It has dazzling waters, beautiful beaches, and a wonderful climate. This tiny island is located off the southernmost part of Florida is the only true tropical island in the United States. Thousands of people from all over the world come to Key West every year for the relaxing lifestyle and rich culture. As well as being rich in culture it is rich in history too. Key West has also been the home to many great authors and artists and is known for having a very diverse population.

Initially, Key West was a home for Spanish explorers and pirates until the first
settlement was established in 1822. In 1822 the U.S. Navy sent Commodore David Porter
to the island. He was sent to take over the island and to eventually stop piracy. He did
succeed and in 1825, Congress put forth a law that required that all ship wrecks where
salvaged goods were taken must be brought to a U.S. port for arbitration. That U.S. port
turned out to be Key West. It then became the wealthiest city in the U.S. (Murphy 3).

Industry arrived in Key West by 1831. Industries such as, cigar-making,
ship-fitting, salt manufacturing, and turtling employed many people. Soon after that the
local residents discovered that their sea sponges were highly valued in the North and that
spun another booming industry for the people of Key West (3). By 1850, this tiny island
was populated and had schools, hospitals, and churches and was thriving on its success
(4).

Key West soon played a part in the Civil War and became known as the cigar
capitol of the world. During the Civil War the Confederacy set up two forts that would
serve as headquarters for naval blockade, Jefferson and Taylor. Key West was the only
Union-held city south of the Masion-Dixon Line and as many as 299 ships would be
anchored at Key West at one time. Then after the war, the industries success decreased,
but the immigration of Cubans to Key West increased. The cigar industry soon grew to
phenomenal heights and the island became a refuge for Cuban revolutionaries (Gifford 9).

The more successful Key West was the more populated it became and soon the
city we now know as Miami spun off of Key West. In 1871, the arrival of the Cuban San
Carlos Institute and Opera House made Key West a rich and diverse city. The island did
suffer from a fire that destroyed fifty acres of downtown property in 1886, but by then
there was a steamship service and that made reconstruction of the city quick and easy (4).

Soon the good luck of Key West was about to run out. A hurricane arrived
and was so destructive that it forced the cigar industry to the Tampa area. Then, their
second main industry, that was the sponge beds, was destroyed by a blight. The only (5) thing they had left was the tourist industry and the Florida land boom...

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