We drove into Key West for two reasons. One to find where we would park and the dock where we meet the boat for the Dry Tortuga's trip. Second to be tourists where we will visit several museums.
Parking is crazy in Key West. There is no free parking. The standard is $5 per hour but some places will max out at $40 per day. The parking garage near the docks seems safe.
Off to get in our steps walking around Key West. Along the way, we passed the original train depot for the Overseas Train that brought people from Miami to Key West.
We saw the Conch “Train” which I remember riding as a little boy when we visited.
Time for some lunch.
It seems every other store has their own “Famous” Key Lime Pie although I do think the name is cute.
On our walk to the first museum, we passed a famous house. There are a lot of old houses and buildings with signs in Key West.
Our first museum today is the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Originally, the building was a Naval Storehouse
Mel Fisher is known for being a treasure hunter. A successful one. He had always been interested in ships and the possibility of finding treasure.
For many years Mel Fisher searched for a specific ship, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha.
The Atocha sank in 1623 at about 56 feet of water during a hurricane between the Marquesas Key to the Dry Tortugas. Soon after the hurricane attempts were made to recover the treasure even documenting with some drawings but the same year a second hurricane scattered and hid the ship.
Spain kept very detailed records of the contents of each ship. Estimates of the value of the known contents of the ship were up to $500 million in today's values and that does not include historical values. It is one of the most prized treasure ships thought to have sunk near Key West.
Fisher searched for over 16 years. Each day he boldly stated that “Today is the day!”.
He did find some treasure but most of that he was able to confirm was from other ships. Some silver bars were found in 1975 and those were confirmed to be from the Atocha. A son, daughter-in-law, and a friend were killed in a boat accident that same year. Even with this loss he kept searching knowing he was close. They struck the “Mother Load” in 1985.
Seeing the small amount in the museum of the total treasure recovered was amazing.
Cross/Ring ment for a Pope
Chains destined for royalty.
The planed destination of the treasure was the Spanish Crown.
Piles of silver. A large portion of the value of the treasure from the ship was silver.
Gold bars. It turns out that this is what gold bars looked like for transport in the 1600's
The treasure was amazing, and this was just a small sample. Wow!
After years of struggling and work to find the wreck then starting the salvage and recovery, the state of Florida and the Federal government decided it should all be taken. At the beginning of the legal fight, Fisher offered to give 25% to the state. They turned that down and demanded all of the treasure.
How is it the state of Florida’s? It is Spanish treasure stolen from the people of the Caribbean and Central America.
Once the state turned down the 25% offer, Fisher took them to court. After eight years moving through the courts, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Fisher and gave him ALL of the treasure. The state got nothing but a bill for the court costs. Being so greedy, they deserve just getting a bill.
There were other items recovered that would not be described as treasure.
The area of the museum was dedicated to pirates and not all were men.
Warning: History lesson to follow
The next stop was the Truman Little White House, but they don’t allow pictures in the building. The building was originally officer's quarters.
Interesting that he was not the first President or famous person to visit the house. The first President to visit the site was William Howard Taft who came by Flagler's Overseas Railroad and stayed in Key West before sailing to Panama to inspect the canal then under construction. During World War I, Thomas Edison lived in the house for 6 months while he perfected 41 underwater weapons. I had no idea that Edison worked on weapons.
Truman visited the Keys as part of a base tour and visit to the Panama Canal.
When Truman got an evaluation by his doctor that he should spend time in a warm damp environment, he made this building his little white house. He loved the house and the Keys. He loved wearing Hawaiian type shirts. There were several on display. He was able to walk the streets without concern and at most would get a wave and hello from the locals. During his presidency, he spent 6 months at the Little White House.
The house was used for many important events in our history. The development of the Marshall Plan and writing of his Civil Rights Orders. The creation of the Department of Defense was agreed on at the dinner table that we walked by during our visit. There is a poker table where Truman played every day during his visit. The table had a special cover that hid the fact that it was made for poker. This table was used during several peace talks between countries that did not want to meet in Washington.
Other presidents continued to use the Little White House. President Dwight Eisenhower had meetings in the house when he was recuperating from a heart attack. President John F. Kennedy had a summit meeting with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan here for them to discuss and make plans for the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy used the house again to make an inspection following the Cuban missile crisis. President Clinton in 2005 and President Carter in 2007 stayed at the retreat with their families. In 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell opened peace talks in this house between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
End History Lesson
The Presidential limo was outside, so I got some pictures of it.
It was an interesting museum, and the furniture is what was used during the Truman’s time there.
Our last touristy thing was the Zero marker for Highway 1.
On our walk back to the truck, we did stroll down Duval Street. Wow, bars and adult clubs, we have been warned to never be on Duval at night. Things can get very wild.
We did decide to get out of the heat and stop at a sports bar for a snack and drinks.
It was a long day and we got in 10,000 steps
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...