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closer view of the memorial
Photo Credit: guyonthego

The Florida Keys Memorial

81701 Old Highway Islamorada, FL 33036
Daylight hours are best.
Not applicable 30 minutes or less
February 2012 Winter
$0-9 Islamorada Florida
Website Historical Monuments
First review
The Florida Keys Memorial is a small limestone monument in Islamorada that honors veterans and local citizens who perished in the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935. This hurricane was the largest to strike the US in recorded history and had top winds close to 200 miles per hour. Hundreds of people were killed and most buildings and structures in the area were obliterated. The monument was dedicated in 1937. In addition to plaques, the structure includes a crypt with remains of many who died. There are also some informational signs about the hurricane.

At the time of the hurricane, the Overseas Highway to Key West had not yet been completed. In order to finish the road and provide assistance to unemployed World War I veterans, the US government had sent hundreds of them to the Florida Keys to work on the highway project. They lived in flimsy shacks, and many of the veterans had previously had been evicted by Herbert Hoover from protest camps in Washington DC in 1932. When the hurricane’s direction and size became known, a rescue train was sent from Miami to pick up the veterans, but due to some long delays, it arrived too late. In fact, the train and most of the tracks were destroyed by a 20 foot storm surge. After the hurricane passed, relief efforts quickly began. Compensation was later paid by the US government to surviving family members. While the railroad was never rebuilt, the Overseas Highways was completed and is today US Route 1.

It’s easy to miss the monument if you are not paying attention when driving in the area. It’s more noticeable when driving north then when heading south. The memorial’s simple structure belies the ferocity of the event it commemorates; however a more modest memorial is probably most appropriate. While the death and destruction caused by the storm is tragic, and the crypt component of the memorial somewhat unsettling, the plaques and related information about the storm was interesting from a historical sense. Unless you are an avid reader of history, it’s unlikely you were even aware of this hurricane or that hundreds of US veterans perished in it. The memorial is right next to US Route 1, so it only takes a few minutes to stop and have a look. While most people driving the Keys will visit this memorial in their rear-view window, if you are reading this review and find yourself in Islamorada one day, a visit here will afford an opportunity to expand your horizons and reflect on the capricious fragility of life.
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