Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Old 7 Miles Bridge - Pigeon Key

Pigeon Key - Cayo Paloma

On old Spanish charts, Pigeon Key was known as Cayo Paloma (dove or white pigeon). Many believe this 5.31-acre island located beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge, just west of Marathon, was named after the white-crowned pigeon of the Florida Keys.

Nobody had much use for Pigeon Key until Henry Flagler needed it to complete the Seven Mile Bridge, which was part of the Florida East Coast Railroad . At that time, the bridge was known as "Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge".

Work began on the island in the spring of 1909, and by the beginning of 1912, it held four bunkhouses, each designed to hold 64 men; an engineering/office building, which also held sleeping quarters for the men who worked there; and numerous tents set up over wooden floors on stilts for the laborers. Food was good and plentiful and strict cleanliness was the law.

Originally, the design for the portion of the Seven Mile Bridge in the Pigeon Key area called for it to be a rock-filled causeway, as the water in the area was shallow enough to build it that way. Of course, the final decision was to make the entire span a bridge.

When the railroad was completed all the way to Key West in 1912, Pigeon Key was transformed from a construction camp into a bridge tender maintenance camp. Some of the original buildings were replaced with more permanent structures, some of them homes. In an attempt to attract and keep more married personnel, a school was opened in 1923. A post office was established the same year and remained open for 10 years. After the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, Pigeon Key became the southern base for rescue, relief, and evacuation operations.

As a result of the damage to the Overseas Railroad caused by the 1935 hurricane, the railroad bridges were transformed to the roadbed for part of the new Overseas Highway . Pigeon Key was headquarters for the construction of this roadway, which was a toll road until 1954. After the tollbooths were dismantled, land title for Pigeon Key was transferred to Monroe County.

In 1960, Hurricane Donna damaged two of the buildings so much that it was decided to burn them down. A few years later, the University of Miami leased the land for a marine biology project. This lease was cancelled in 1987.

In 1992, the Pigeon Key Foundation was formed as a joint venture between the Monroe County Environmental Education Task Force and the Mote Marine Laboratory of Sarasota, Florida, and a 30-year lease was granted. Today, seven historic structures remain alongside a few more structures added over the years.

A multi-use educational and meeting facility is housed in the restored Section Gang's Quarters. PKF offices are located in the Assistant Paint Foreman's House. The Assistant Bridge Tender's House now serves as a museum dedicated to the railway and early highway history. The Bridge Worker's Dorm and Negro Quarters have been restored and are used as sleeping quarters. The rest of the historic buildings and the additional structures have all been restored.

The Pigeon Key Foundation, a non-profit organization, has transformed this island and its buildings into a world-class educational center; a place to teach visitors about the splendor of the cultural and natural resources of the Florida Keys, and a nationally recognized concert and event location.

Read more about Pigeon Key here:


David Van Hulst said...

Let's run away to Pigeon Key this afternoon, OK?

Susanne in Key West said...

O.k. Darling...when do you will pick me up?? Call me please!

Worldman said...

I have to smile at the husband/wife dialogue. I guess it is so, as David is van........and Susanne also........! The pictures are very exotic. Palm trees. We have them here also. With a lot of dates. Nice fruits. The only problem is that often a destroyed village is close by. But perhaps, one day, children will run around these trees again and laugh and not be afraid anymore when they hear an airplane.

Susanne in Key West said...

Thank you Peter,
for your nice and interesting comment.Indeed that was my hubby commenting...your guess was right!:-)

RandomEncounters said...

I love your photos, they are beautiful. If you are ever interested in being a guest photographer on my blog I have a photo blog called My Photo Garden. Check it out and let me know

André Benjamim said...

I can't find the link to vote your blog for Blogger Choice Awards... Leave me a message with the link... embrace

Susanne in Key West said...

Hi randomencounter
Hi Andre

Thanks so much both of you to take your time and writing these comments to my today's post.
I wrote both of you back already on BC and MBL.

Anna said...

Just before few clicks to your blog I think what Sue's photo idea for today - this is so nice and informative, it is nice to know about places in the world. Thank you for sharing that with us. Anna :)

Susanne in Key West said...

Thank you Anna
for commenting about my post.I'm glad you enjoyed your stay.

richard said...

Wow - this is an encyclopedia, not a blog entry! Thanks for the comments on my Zurich blog, I'm glad it reminds you of home. I love Zürich as you can guess, but I guess it's a whole different world from Keywest.
I like the photos on your art blog, especially this one

Heather said...


Just Beautiful! And it is nice to hear the history behind it.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Anonymous said...

Really cool pics, good luck with your blog.

Susanne in Key West said...

Hi Richard
I'm glad you took your time to see and read in my "encyclopedia". Thanks also for your comment (link) to my website photos. Comparing to the life in Zurich and to live in Key West,is like to be on another planet!:-)

Susanne in Key West said...

Thanks for your good wishes Anna - and for your nice comment too.

Susanne in Key West said...

Thank you DD2
I appreciate your comments today.


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