Whitehead Street (From Sea to Shining Sea)

Let’s start at the beginning. Remember The Southernmost Point at the corner of South and Whitehead streets with the big ugly buoy, Havana Cuba 90 miles to the South. People taking photos night and day, nothing like my blog front page photo taken in the 70’s, simpler, nicer, but the sign kept getting stolen. It always gets the blood flowing to start with a little rant.

As we put our backs to Cuba and head down Whitehead, on the right is the Hemingway House. Ernest Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, bought the old Tift Mansion and renovated it in the 30’s. When he finished “Farewell to Arms” they left our neighborhood and moved in. It is now a tourist attraction.pr19891 It has a planter, the urinal, which Hemingway brought to his house from Sloppy Joe’s Bar because he said he had put so much of himself into it.   There are lots of 6-toed cats wandering around the place or sleeping. The in-ground pool that Pauline built cost a fortune. It was dug into solid coral and originally the slightly salty water was pumped up from underground. In the early 40’s it was converted to fresh water when the water pipe from Miami started providing fresh water to the Florida Keys from deep underground aquifers. It is a beautiful Spanish style house with a lot of Hemingway’s life story in it. Picture: (State Archives of Florida/Liddle).

The Key West Lighthouse has become more and more landlocked over the years as the island expanded. I remember in first grade riding on the yellow school bus with my friend to her house one afternoon after school. She was the daughter of the lighthouse keeper and lived on Whitehead in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.

dm2815We sat on the front steps and did what six year olds do. Nothing very much productive, I’d warrant. The Lighthouse was electrified sometime in the 60’s and the lighthouse keeper no longer needed. It is now a museum. You can climb to the top for a nice view of the island.  Picture:  (State Archives of Florida/McDonald).

Down the street is a beautiful old church, which has just been renovated. It is the African Methodist Episcopal Church. When I was little, once in a while, the Episcopal nuns there would come and take communion at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

On the other side as we zigzag down Whitehead Street is the Green Parrot Bar. It’s basically an open-air bar with barstools easily accessible off the street in a quieter part of town, near the Courthouse and the gate to the Navy Yard. On weekends live bands rock the neighborhood. dm6474It has been on that corner of Southard and Whitehead for many years. It’s a nice bar for a hot afternoon beer, or to be part of what’s happening on Saturday night. In past times, it was strictly a sailor’s bar.  Picture:  (State Archives of Florida/McDonald)

The County Courthouse is on the opposite corner. We lived across the street and I was born at Dr. Gailey’s Hospital around the corner on Fleming Street. I mention this only for posterity’s sake.

On the same side down the street is the Presidential Gate and further down across the street is the Audubon House, one of the first houses to be renovated in Key West. pr30033The Audubon House was listed for demolition in 1958 but was saved by The Wolfson Family Foundation. The house contains 18 first-edition works by John James Audubon that are included in his “Birds of America” folio. There’s a beautiful tropical garden out back. This was the first renovation in Key West and many think it the best.  Picture: (State Archives of Florida/Spalding).

Across the street is the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Mel Fisher with his family and workers spent decades treasure hunting in the Florida Keys. On July 20, 1985, he found the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, sunk in a hurricane off Key West on September 6, 1622. The estimated $450 million cache recovered included 40 tons of gold and silver, 114000 “pieces of eight”, gold coins, Columbian emeralds, gold and silver artifacts and 1000 silver ingots. This was only half the treasure. The wealthiest part of the ship, the stern is yet to be found. After many court proceedings mainly with the state of Florida, The Supreme Court of the United States has confirmed Fisher’s ownership to the treasure and transferred to him 75% of the appraised value of all material recovered.

c032324Down at the other end of Whitehead Street is the Key West Aquarium, which has been there since I was a child. My granddaughters go there every time they visit. It is not a large aquarium, but there is a large open-air shark tank and many other interesting and beautiful sea animals to visit.  Picture:  (State Archives of Florida).

4 thoughts on “Whitehead Street (From Sea to Shining Sea)”

  1. Stopped by the Parrot in my Ft ZAC Civil War drag at the end of the re-enactor parade a few weeks ago and thought of you! Thanks for this trip down memory Lane!

  2. It’s good to hear from you again. I wish we’d had your blog when we visited Key West. The drive down was something of a quick decision when I was at a meeting in Miami Beach. Joan and the boys came along to visit family in Titusville. I do remember ending our drive where you started your verbal tour. We sort of looked around and thought: “Well, here we are. What do we do now?” Seems kind of dumb, now, that we didn’t do a little research before making the drive. Sigh…

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