Top 5 Museums in Key West

 

Key West is a small island with a lot of history. Our residents have found gold and wrote inspiring stories. Key West played an important role during the Cuban Missle Crisis and hosted a few presidents, we even succeeded from the US for a little while. For only 4.2 square miles, Key West is full of history and culture.

If you’re looking to learn more about Key West and the rich history behind us Conchs, read on. We made a list of the must-visit museums in Key West. These museums showcase the best of our island and everything we have to offer.

Key West Museum of Art & History

 

It’s hard to miss the beautiful brick facade of the Old Post Office and Customs House building. Located on Front Street, this historical building now serves as the Key West Museum of Art & History.  When you visit, you can experience two floors of exhibitions that brings together art, history, people and events. If you don’t have a lot of time to explore inside the museum, you can take a quick stroll outside and see the realistic statues that are scattered on the museum grounds.

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum located at 907 Whitehead St. Photo: Ulla Moilanen

Ernest Hemingway Museum

Ernest Hemingway once called Key West Home, now we call Ernest Hemingway’s house a museum. As soon as you enter the grounds you are met by a 6-toed cat and lush plants.  On a guided tour you’ll be able to get a glimpse into the way one of the best author’s of the century lived. Hemingway’s house has a lot of historical features. The house (now a museum) was one of the first houses to have indoor plumbing, running water upstairs and a pool!

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

 

Located in downtown Key West at the corner of Greene St. and Whitehead is the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. This nautically themed museum features collections of artifacts from a 17th-century shipwreck that was excavated in by Mel Fisher and his team of Treasure Salvors. They started their quest in 1969 and spent years following an elusive trail. It wasn’t until 1973 when they found three silver bars, did they know they were on the right path. Sixteen years later they unearthed a treasure that can now be seen at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

Lighthouse Tower & Keeper Quarters

 

One of our favorite spots in Key West is the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper Quarters. Climbing the 88 steps to the tops of the lighthouse and seeing our wonderful island from a bird’s eye view is a breathtaking experience. We also love getting a glimpse of the belongings, photographs, and words of the Lighthouse Keepers and their families.

Fort East Martello

 

Fort East Martello was first built during the Civil War to protect the Union-controlled island from the Confederacy. After the war ended, there was no use for this military structure. The fort and tower remained empty until 1950 when the Key West Art & Historical Society opened the islands first museum in the abandoned fort. With the help of committed volunteers and community support, the fort was restored to the original design. Today, the museum showcases a collection of relics from the civil war, information about wrecking and cigar manufacturing and the haunted Robert the Doll.

Did your favorite museum make our list? If no, let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more skin care tips & tricks.

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The Conch Republic

Photo Credit: The Conch Republic Facebook

Conch (kongk): any variety of large, spiral-shaped mollusks; the shell of which is used especially in cameos. When capitalized, Conch: a native or resident of the Florida Keys.

Drive past the Last Chance Saloon on US 1 in Florida City, and you’ve just entered a new country. Well, sort of. That country is the Northernmost Territories of The Conch Republic. Don’t worry. You don’t have to show your passport, but that wasn’t always the case.

For some strange reason, back in 1982, the U.S. federal government border patrol had deemed it altogether fitting and proper to establish a border-type roadblock 100 miles within U.S. territory to check for illegal immigrants, drug smuggling, and heaven knows what else. Nearly every car was stopped and searched, resulting in a 17-mile-long traffic jam on the only road connecting the Keys to mainland Florida. Getting to and from the Keys became one giant hassle, and tourism to the area plummeted. Not to mention residents of the Keys were made to feel like outcasts or criminals, having to show passports to travel within their own state.

Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow headed a three-man delegation to federal court in Miami, asking for an end to the blockade. After thoughtful deliberation to consider all the legalities, the court told Mayor Wardlow, “No.” Faced with a government not willing to give equal rights to all, Wardlow announced to the growing number of television and newspaper media gathering outside the courtroom, “Tomorrow at noon the Florida Keys will secede from the Union.”

Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/AP photo

At noon the following day, in a one-page proclamation of secession read at Mallory Square, he spoke simply for all his fellow Conchs, stating, “That’s our flag. It has a conch on it. We secede from the United States.” And, with that, the new Prime Minister of the Conch Republic declared war on the United States, demonstrated by breaking stale Cuban bread over a man dressed in a Naval uniform. After one full minute of “war, “Prime Minister Wardlow surrendered to the U.S. Forces (to the same guy in the Naval uniform, actually) and demanded millions of dollars in postwar foreign aid. While the government immediately took down the roadblock, Conchs are still waiting for the aid.

And thus, the quirky Conch Republic was born, April 23, 1982. Wardlow was quoted in a statement to a member of the Foreign Ministry as saying, “It is our function as the Conch Republic to be the Joker in the deck. You may not always want to play with us, but we must be there, otherwise, you’re not playing with a full deck.” For over 36 years, this Conch micronation has governed with humor, warmth, and respect in a world in sore need of all three.

Every year since then, we Conchs have come together for an annual celebration of our independence. This year, the 10-day celebration will take place from Friday, April 20th to Monday, April 30th and shine a light on everything that makes Key West fun and unique.

Where were you on April 23, 1982? If any of you were lucky enough to be in Key West to witness the unfolding of this historic event that would travel around the world at warp speed in a pre-internet age, we would love to hear your story! Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Instagram! Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get more tips and tricks.

Happy Birthday to us!

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