Key West Live Cam

Experience all Key West activities and attractions


Hosted by:
  • Hog's Breath Saloon
  • 400 Front Street - Key West
  • Florida 33040 - United States
  • (305) 296-4222
  • [email protected]

Key West is a Paradise for everyone

They were called "Conchs" (rhymes with honks), for their affinity to the local helmet-shaped mollusk that was abundant in both their old home, the Bahamas, and their new home, the Florida Keys. The Bahamians that moved to Key West were almost totally from the Islands of Abaco, Eluthera, and Long Island. Virtually all were from about four or five families, and these names still comprise many pages of the Key West phone directory, as they do over much of the Bahamas. The primary families were Sawyer, Albrey, Curry, Pinder, and Russell. There were others, including Whitehead, Watlington, Roberts and Smith. All were loyalists, British citizens that fled the United States, mostly the Carolinas, after the Revolution, escaping to the nearest British soil, the Bahamas.

Key West’s first major industry was somewhat self-made. The treacherous coral reefs, uncharted waters, and frequent hurricanes took tremendous toll on the shipping that traveled this part of the world, and a very healthy industry sprang up almost overnight by enterprising Bahamians that lived by salvaging the wrecks. Called Wreckers, this hardy group was not beyond helping out their industry by blowing out the lights of the local lighthouses and putting up false lights in a different location to make the shippers go off course.

Another good story is how they would take two mules and string a length of rope between them, then hang lanterns along the rope. Ships out at sea would see what looked like another ship much closer to land, and think they were farther outside the barrier reef. They would then come closer, hitting the reef and perish. Sometimes they killed all survivors, also called "witnesses". They might have been called wreckers, but to others they were no more than pirates. Along with the wreckers, who operated in a salvage gray area, were genuine pirates that made the keys their haunts, including the infamous Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, Black Cesar and Jean Lafitte.

But that’s not where the story starts

Geologically speaking, the Florida Keys are mere babes in the woods, first emerging from the sea only between 48,000 and 100,000 years ago, as a part of a coral and limestone structure, so you won’t find any dinosaur bones here, but fossil seashell deposits are numerous. Less than 2000 years ago the Keys became inhabited by the Calusa Indians. A peaceful people, they were chased from island to island by warlike tribes from the mainland, until they reached Key West, the end of the chain, where they were almost completely wiped out. Possibly sighted by Columbus on his final voyage, they were officially mapped and named "The Martyrs" by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce Deleon on Easter Sunday, 1513. It was renamed "The Island of Bones" when the aftermath of the native slaughter was found.

In Spanish, Island is "Cayo" and bone "Hueso" The maps began showing the island as Cayo Hueso, or Bone Island, which was eventually altered to Key West by the slang-happy English speaking whites sail nearby. For the next three hundred years Key West went uninhabited and mostly ignored, save local Indians and the occasional shipwrecked sailor.

The first white settlers started inhabiting the keys around 1800 and After changing hands in private ownership for many years, the formally became part of the United States in 1821 when Lieutenant Matthew C. Perry hoisted the American Flag on the Island.

By 1825 Key West was a bustling community, with wharves, shipyards and warehouses stuffed with salvage. That year, congress passed legislation which provided that all salvage taken from wrecks in U.S. waters would have to be brought to an American port for arbitration. In 1828 a Federal court was established for this purpose in Key West, and almost overnight, wreckers from all over, including the Bahamas, moved to Key West.