The Mountain Times

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Unlocking the Keys

Courtesy of Patsy Zedar
Flagler Centennial Mural painted by the Art Guild of the Purple Isles and the Island Christian School Art Club


2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Overseas Railroad to Key West, an extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad. Henry Flagler and John Rockefeller made their money developing the Standard Oil Company. Flagler later turned to building Florida hotels and railways. His dream was to build a railroad through the wilderness of sandy islands and mangrove thickets from the tip of Florida's mainland to Key West with steamer service to Cuba. This task took eight years to complete because of difficulties in building bridges up to seven miles long, recovering from damaging hurricanes, and supporting a workforce on location. It operated until it was destroyed by one of the worst storms in U.S. history, the 1935 hurricane.

Patsy Zedar - photographer, Betty Little - writer (both Killington Arts Guild Members), and Martha F. McMullen - author (member Writers Circle, Kravis Center, West Palm Beach, FL), joined the celebration by visiting historic sites through the Keys. Highlights included: sunset at Bahia Honda Bridge where the railroad was built over 35 ft deep water and saw remains of the railroad bridge with the automobile road built on top after 1935.

McMullen and Zedar traveled this road in 1974; the monument for over 500 workmen, WWI veterans and residents who died in the 1935 hurricane; and a wall mural of the steam train traveling  the Overseas Railroad painted by the Arts Guild of the Purple Isles and the Island Christian School Art Club to celebrate the Centennial.

KAG 2 Photo 2a
Photo by Patsy Zedar
Remains of the Bahai Honda Bridge

In the Keys we found many worlds. Traveling along U.S. Highway 1, it often looked like Route 7 South in Rutland, only with Tiki Bars and fish restaurants and an occasional Dolphin, Turtle, or nature attraction. Off the road, a series of State Parks brought us closer to nature - a strip of white sand and brown seaweed, groups of birds, dense trees and mangroves through which trails and roads have been cut, picnic tables, camping sites, and boating facilities.

From U.S. 1 we could see trailer parks that accommodate boats, boatyards with stacks of stored boats - all closed down for the hurricane season. People come from all over to be a part of this water world.

To commemorate the event authors wrote the centennial books, "Last Train to Paradise" by Les Standiford and Anniversary edition "The Railroad that Died at Sea" by Pat Parks.

Tagged: KAG, Patsy Zedar