Key West History

Key West’s past is much like its present…colorful, diverse, fascinating and majestic. The beginnings of this tiny slice of paradise dates back centuries to the era of Ponce de Leon. It was a time when native Indians fought to protect their land and when Pirates scoured the seas in search of treasure.

Originally named Cayo Hueso, or Bone Key, because of the bones found scattered in the sand in its earliest days, Key West was and still is, a mysterious jewel at the southernmost tip of the United States. From the very beginning, people from all walks of life were drawn to the island. Perhaps it was the magnificently clear waters, the deep harbor, the breathtaking sunsets or the promise of something so much more.

Throughout its history, Key West experienced many periods of growth and change. During the early to mid 1800’s, the wreckers who salvaged and then sold the valuables of fallen ships made it the wealthiest city in the United States. The island also became famous for its Bahamian sponge harvesters, who sold the sponges they collected under the waters surrounding the island. Cubans hand-rolled cigars in the open market and many others immigrated to the island in search of fortune. Influences from the British, Spanish, Cuban and Caribbean cultures can still be experienced throughout the city.

The island’s year-round sunshine, natural beauty and laidback persona have lured celebrities, Presidents, royalty, artists, authors and poets, the famous and infamous souls who found just what they were looking for in Key West…their own personal utopia. Museums, galleries, restaurants, pubs, shops and an assortment of attractions provide an array of opportunities to discover even more about the island.

Today, Key West still remains an extraordinary destination, where art, architecture, culture, cuisine, music, nature and people from any and every background live, work and coexist harmoniously.