Key West is a small “island city” in the Florida Straits. The city is one of the largest islands in the Florida Archipelago, a long group of autonomous islands and marshlands called “keys.” The Florida Archipelago is 180 miles long and includes around 800 islands.
European settlement in Key West and the Florida Archipelago stretches back to Spanish occupation. In 1763, Spain ceded the territory to Great Britain, starting a process that would eventually see a settlement in much of the dry land throughout the Florida Keys. But until the mid-nineteenth century, only pirates and fishermen came to the Keys. Nonetheless, when the Spanish Governor of Cuba gave the island that would one day be Key West to Juan Pablo Salas in 1815, official recognition of the island’s status as a regional capital began. Salas was a prominent Spanish military officer. It was their practice to give land to military leaders.
Fun Key West Facts
- Key West is the southernmost city in the United States
- The Island is closer to Cuba (around 90 miles) than Miami, at about 130 miles
- The Word “Key” is an English translation of the Spanish word “cayo,” which means “island.”
- Key West is the southern terminus of U.S. Route 1, the longest north/south road in the United States
- 42 bridges make it possible to drive to Key West
- The Overseas Railroad was the first land contact with the continental United States.
- Many famous writers (like Ernest Hemingway) made Key West home