Think you know everything about your favorite island paradise?  Here are 5 Things You Don’t Know about Key West!

1.  The very first tourist attraction in Key West was the Aquarium, opened in 1935. After a damaging hurricane later that same year destroyed the Overseas Railroad, tourism came to a halt for several years. Reopened by Bill and Oliver Kroll in 1946, people paid a quarter to stare at the local varieties of funny looking fish in the restored, open air aquarium. Of course tourists would then ask, “What else is there to see?” The Krolls, early entrepreneurs, saw an opportunity and started the now ubiquitous Conch Train tour.  Nearby Key West hotels; Pier House Resort & Spa.

Vintage Image of KW Aquarium 1960


2.  The fiery canopy of blossoms you see throughout the tree lined streets of Key West in the spring is the Royal Poinciana tree. Also referred to as the Flamboyant tree, this colorful spectacle is not native to the island, but originated in far off Madagascar. With a similar, climate, these magnificent trees thrive on our frost free island and have survived decades of hurricanes. The tree of fire is a sight you won’t forget.

Royal Poinciana Tree

Royal Poinciana Tree


3.  Fire has not been a friend to Key West. Two devastating fires in 1859 and 1886 destroyed many of the original wooden structures. In the days before there was a fire department on call, ingenuity prevailed. Henry Mulrennon got a keg of gunpowder from nearby Fort Zachary Taylor and used it to blow up his own house in the path of the fire. The hope was that by doing this they would create a space to stop the fire spreading from house to house. The fire was successfully stopped.

4.  Have you seen the large red brick building on Front Street, the Custom’s House? Hard to miss this massive Romanesque building, built in 1891 and originally used as the Federal Courthouse. What you may have missed is the interesting terra cotta ornamentation on the exterior of the building. See if you can discover the five faces- a lion, a fox, a ram, a human and a demon. A scavenger hunt the kids will love.

Old Custom House


5.  His name was Mudd. Remember from history, the doctor who attended to President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth? He became a most unpopular person and was subsequently imprisoned for helping the murderer. Dr. Samuel Mudd’s exile took place at Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas just a few miles from Key West’s shores. We would call that a vacation getaway today.