Historic Resources Subgrants help repair Hurricane IRMA damages at three historic locations

MONROE COUNTY, FL – Earlier this year, Monroe County was approved for $4.9 million for three separate Historic Resources Disaster Supplemental subgrants sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources (DHR), the State of Florida, and the National Park Service (NPS). The three approved grants are to make repairs to historic buildings from damages sustained by 2017’s Hurricane Irma. Repairs include Key West Lighthouse for $138,932, repairs to Pigeon Key’s Honeymoon Cottage and Commissary for $482,550, and repairs to the citadel at Fort West Martello for $500,000.

“The County is so pleased to have been chosen by the DHR and NPS to be a recipient of these subgrants to help restore these historic properties,” said Cary Knight, Director of Monroe County Project Management. “The newly restored historical properties will be enjoyed by the residents and visitors who wish to experience these culturally-significant parts of Monroe County history.”

KEY WEST LIGHTHOUSE

The DHR and NPS grant awarded to the Key West Lighthouse was used for multiple small repairs to the entrance to the gift store and some of the smaller buildings on the property, with the majority of the funds being used to repair the roof. The repairs at the lighthouse are complete.

After the first Key West Lighthouse was destroyed in an 1846 hurricane, a new 50-foot lighthouse was constructed. In 1894, the growth of trees and taller buildings in Key West led to the lighthouse being raised so the light was about 100 feet above sea level. Decommissioned in 1969 and turned over to Monroe County, the lighthouse is leased to the Key West Art & Historical Society as a museum. One item on display is the first-order Fresnel lens from Sombrero Key Lighthouse.

PIGEON KEY HONEYMOON COTTAGE AND COMMISSARY

The Pigeon Key grant awarded by DHR and NPS will fund the rehabilitation of the 1940 Honeymoon Cottage and 1912 Commissary that sustained damages from Hurricane Irma’s tidal surge that knocked both structures off their foundations.

While Henry Flagler was building the Overseas Railway to Key West in the early 1900s, more than 400 workers lived in the railroad village on Pigeon Key. When a hurricane destroyed the railway in 1925, Pigeon Key became the headquarters for the Florida Road and Toll Bridge District. Starting in 1968, the island served as an environmental field station for international researchers studying tropical marine and island ecologies. In 1993, the Pigeon Key Foundation assumed stewardship and began restoration efforts on the island.

The restoration of the buildings will be going out to bid in the next few weeks. The access ramp was recently completed, and the F-DOT Old Seven Mile Bridge Rehabilitation project is scheduled to be completed in February 2022.

WEST MARTELLO CITADEL

Fort West Martello, built in the mid-1860s, was awarded a DHR and NPS subgrant to fund the repairs to its iconic archway that was destroyed in Hurricane Irma. The East and West Martello towers, though never armed, were used during the Spanish American War in 1898 for quartering troops and from 1914-44, they were used for radio stations and an anti-aircraft battery on the beach.  Saved from demolition in 1949, the Key West Garden Club entered into a lease agreement with the County to preserve the tower. The West Tower was declared a National Historic Site by the State of Florida in 1976 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The County recently finished repairs on the battery armory at West Martello and will begin citadel repairs in Spring 2021.

This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources and the State of Florida and partially funded by the Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund, National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not constitute endorsement or necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior or U.S. Government.