"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

February 13, 2015

Feb. 12 - Pigeon Key, FL

Sombrero Resort & Marina

“Helping others is like helping yourself.” ―Henry Flagler

The wind finally laid down a little today and we had a chance to take the ferry out to Pigeon Key. Pigeon Key is a five acre island west of Marathon that was used to house the men who built the Seven Mile Bridge and the Overseas Railroad from Miami to Key West in the early 1900s. This railroad was the dream of Henry Flagler who is known as the father of Florida. He opened Florida’s first destination hotel in St. Augustine in 1888 and later built the railroad that connected the northern part of Florida (and the east coast) to a little fishing village that later became known as Miami. His dream was to connect Miami and Key West with a railroad…that dream was realized when the Overseas Railroad was completed in January 1912, over a year earlier than scheduled. Flagler took good care of his workers and the men wanted to make sure the project was finished before Flagler died, so they began working 24 hours a day in a marathon to finish the project early. The last portion of the railroad to be finished was between Pigeon Key and the settlement two mile east now known as Marathon. Following its completion of the railroad, maintenance crews and bridge tenders continued to live on the island.

The railroad was used until it was destroyed by a devastating hurricane in 1935. It was then replace by a state highway and Pigeon Key became headquarters for the Florida Road and Toll Bridge District. When the new Seven Mile Bridge was opened in 1982 the island was abandoned for awhile. The Key is now under the management of the Pigeon Key Foundation and is used for research and educational programs of all kinds. Students from elementary school to post-graduate levels spend time on the island participating in workshops on marine mammals and reef fish, coral reef systems, invertebrates and hard and soft corals found in Florida/Caribbean waters. People can also rent the island for family reunions, weddings or special occasions. At one time it was the center of a major transportation project that made history…now it’s a beautiful relaxing little island filled with history to share surrounded by the turquoise waters to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a great little spot to spend the day. You can bring a picnic lunch and relax and when the weather is right you can even swim and snorkel around the island.

Pigeon Key and the old Seven Mile Bridge from the ferry
The ferry landing on the island
Guest House on the right and part of the bridge
The tour of the island began with a short history lesson on Henry Flagler and the Overseas Railroad. This house can be rented for a week or a weekend. It was decorated very nice and the back porch was just steps away from the water.
Looking back at the Guest House and ferry landing, with the old bridge over head
Looking across the pool to the new and old Seven Mile Bridge
This is the bridge tenders house, used today as a dormitory. The house to the left was the assistant bridge tenders house, which now houses a museum.
Paint foreman's house and some of the pretty grounds of the island
This is one of the original buildings used to house the workers in the early 1900s. 64 men lived in this building. The majority of the men lived in large tents.
This is called the Honeymooner Cabin. It was built in the 1950s when the island was being used to make a movie.

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