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A Little Key West History

Curious to know a little about this tiny island before you experience all the wonders it has to offer? You have come to the right place!  This short Key West History puts into context some of ths sights you will see on this amazing little island.

In 1815, Spain awarded Key West or Cayo Hueso, as it was known then, to Juan Pablo Salas.  Salas later sold the island to John Simonton, an American businessman for $2,000.00.  Simonton, a true capitalist, convinced the US military that Key West would make a great naval base. Hence, in 1822, Lieutenant Perry of the US Navy sailed into Key West, proclaimed the island as a US territory, hung up a flag, fired off a salute and went home to Washington. 

Key West was already a wild town in the 1800s, complete with Pirates, whorehouses, and ship wrecks whose bounty was shared with the islanders. Then in the 1920s the Prohibition jump-started Key West’s economy and reputation.

Bootleggers became overnight millionaires trafficking rum from Havana and whiskey from Nassau. Key West became well known for its oversupply of liquor and when Prohibition ended and numerous bars came out from hiding. 

During that time Key West also became a hangout for artists and writers like Earnest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, forever leaving their mark on Key West History and making for an interesting mix of folks still haunting the bars and beaches of Key West today looking for inspiration. Not surprisingly, Spring Breakers soon followed- also looking for their own brand of inspiration.

An oceanview from a guesthouse in Key West.

Today, Key West is home to Spring Breakers and tourists from all around the world, not mention great bars, resorts, water sports… in short a great little destination.  The spirit in town in generally carefree and laidback- with no one overly concerned about their neighbor's doings.  This has led to an influx of both hippies and gay culture, both of which are welcome and openly present.  So long as you can "live and let live," you too will enjoy the freedom and 'no-problem' attitude of Key West.

Return to the Key West Guide.

Do you have more Key West History?

Are you a Key West Historian who wants to set the record straight?   If you have something to add about Key West's past and how it relates to Spring Break (or a cool photo historical photo), please submit your items and pics regarding Key West History here.


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