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May 17, 2012


Mary Ellen Lapp

As a newer resident of Key West, I can appreciate the magnitude of Flagler's accomplishment. Les has chronicled his realized dream perfectly. I feel fortunate to live amid the rich history of this beautiful community. Looking forward to that movie!

Beth Van Vorst Gray

I have a love affair with Key West. My first visit was in 1975 when Sunset Point was still behind the row of shops and next to the large hotel there. We dashed our way across Florida in time to "see the sunset at Sunset Point."

Never having been there, I thought my travel mate was a bit loose in the head. We got there early . . . not my usual pattern . . .and we sat on a log, shoes off, with the ocean lapping at our feet. Naked, beautiful little children were playing along the seashore, their laughter and the soft lapping of the water being the the only noise we heard. I saw my first sailboat in which the mast was held in place by its occupant, several colorful sails streaking across the horizon between two large floating mangrove islands, their wake splashing shards of broken colors where they crossed the sun's path. The world seemed to stand still becuse it was so beautiful and restful.

Soon, the sun started glowing, an intense fiery ball of orange and red, reflecting its track on the water all the way to our feet and the blue of the sky became dense as well. Then, without warning, the sun plummeted below the horizon.

At that moment, I heard a collective "Oooh!' behind me, a crowd of people holding their breath at the last sight as was I. Silently, the entire area behind us had filled with people who had come to share this daily blessing.

Then it was night.

Beth Van Vorst Gray

My last trip to Key West was nine years ago, when my husband and I were married, at the age of 69. We were guided to the elusive and beautiful "Secret Garden," another world just a few steps from the main street.

There were orchids in the trees, multi-colored parrots in cages within the small park (it is also a refuge for abandoned parrots), and we were married in a small clearing in this jungle paradise.

No longer was it the same Sunset Point I so enjoyed in 1975 (see earlier posting); the hotel on the shore was still there -- the Pilot House, I think? but huge cruise ships were moored where the old Sunset Point had been, and the spiffy new hotels with cascading terraces and balconies facing the west was filled with tourists listening to Jimmy Buffett and drinking margaritas as they saluted the end of the day. The mangrove islands were still there; the one-man sailboats were splashing into and out of the golden-red trail the sun cast across the water.Sunset in Key West is an awesome gift of nature, even gilded over with the trappings of tourism.

I bought Keno sandals for my family back home, as I had done every trip I've taken to Key West; ate at Louie's Crab House and Blue Heaven. Not the same. but it felt like, smelled like, and WAS Key West.

Derek Lyons

I have been to the Keys, but never so far down as Key West. Growing up in Florida, the story of Flagler's Folly was a familiar one. I knew more about it than most, though, my Dad being a Florida history buff and having a family friend who wrote a number of Florida history books.

(Alas, Dad passed back in January... He'd have loved to have seen this.)

Cynthia Peterson

I loved this book and felt it accurately captured the significance of Flagler's vision for Florida. As an archivist and longtime resident of Florida, I appreciated the extensive research done with primary source documents; the events were captured more vividly through the actual words of the historical figures.

I was surprised by the relationship of the planned railroad to the Panama Canal (celebrating its 100th Anniversay in 2014). If the port in Key West had been constructed as perceived, its economic impact on Florida would have changed our history.

The Flagler-built Ponce de Leon Hotel is celebrating its 125th Anniversay in 2013 and displaying original architectural drawings and details of the building. A must-see for those interested in the Gilded Era of architecture.

Cynthia Peterson

Steve Leveen

Dear Beth, Mary Ellen, Derek and Cynthia,

Wow...thank you for sharing your memories of the Keys and insights with such beautiful words. You are inspiring.


Debbie Dozier

I have lived in Florida my whole life, moving to the Dade County area when I was two. As a child we often made the drive down to the Upper and Lower Keys when the bridges were still two-lane and NARROW. My father was a history buff and never failed to point out the area where one of the survivors of the Labor Day storm had lashed himself to a palm tree when his shack at one of the work camps had blown away. Dad also always made a point of telling us that the majority of the workers were WWI veterans. As I grew older, I would spend as much time in the Keys as I could...fishing, boating, diving...OK, and some drinking too! I have since moved to the west coast of Florida, but still miss the beautiful clear waters only found in the Keys. That area is rich in history, quirkiness, and intrigue. Several years ago I purchased "Hemingway's Hurricane" by Phil Scott that some of your readers may find informative and a companion piece to the current offering by Mr. Standiford.

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