Stream All Speakers

Recording of the Distinguished Speaker Series is generously supported by Aloys and Carol Metty and John and Marilyn Rintamaki.

Alex Vega: Fires that Forged Key West

Alex Vega is the Executive Director of the Key West Firehouse Museum, which is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation and exhibition of artifacts about fire fighting in Key West. Participants learned about the fires that forged Key West, including the Great Fire of 1886.

Laura Albritton & Jerry Wilkinson: Hidden History of the Florida Keys

What if the Overseas Railroad had never reached Key West? In their presentation the “Great Key West Extension Scare,” Florida Keys historian Jerry Wilkinson and writer Laura Albritton dive into the hidden history of Flagler’s railroad that went to sea. Uncovering a stash of records and newspaper articles, they will recount the dispute that might have led to the vital railroad line stopping in the Middle Keys. Who was involved, and why the Key West Extension was in doubt are two of the topics explored in this slideshow and lecture. The third book that Jerry and Laura have collaborated on, Hidden History of the Florida Keys, will be available for signing after the presentation.

Stephan Kitaskos: Eroticism & Experimentation in the Later Works of Tennessee Williams

A discussion that illuminates the playwright’s later one-act plays. In the canon of American dramatic literature, Williams is one of the leading writers of plays, short stories and poetry. Influenced by the socio-cultural underpinnings of American society, both pre-and-post WWII, he captured a realism and exposed a harsh brutality expressed in his characters: women and men searching for love and acceptance in a world that was relentingly hostile.

Panel Discussion: Bahama Village

Renowned historians (Jeff Stotts, Corey Malcolm, Carmen Turner and Roosevelt Sands) discuss the history of Bahama Village, moderated by Commissioner Clayton Lopez.

Steve King: The Art of Parades

Like Stanley Papio, the parade’s namesake, Steve King is an outsider artist that has left his mark on the Key’s community through his social commentary. Over the past 15 years, his creations have featured in the annual Fantasy Fest Parade, often placing or winning the event.

Tom Hambright: The Rest of the Story

You have heard the official history of Key West, now in the tradition of the late Paul Harvey, Tom Hambright is going to present the Rest of The Story for some major events in Key West History.

Frederic Borch III: The Spanish American War

Key West played a prominent role in the War with Spain, given its proximity to Cuba, and its important military and naval facilities. Military historian Fred Borch will talk about the Spanish American War, the USS Maine, and Key West.

Rafael Penalver: The History of the San Carlos Institute

The San Carlos Institute is one of Key West’s most beautiful and historic landmarks. Founded in 1871 as a Cuban patriotic and educational center, the San Carlos stands as a symbol of freedom and hope for the Cuban people. Jose Marti, Cuba’s legendary patriot, and poet, united the exile community at the San Carlos in 1892.

Theresa Schober: Bringing the Mound Key Story to Life – The Making of Escambia: The Kingdom of Carlos

Remnants of elevated mounds and ridges, sculpted canals and water courts remain a visible yet subtle reminder of the once thriving Calusa chiefdom that controlled the southern third of the Florida peninsula by 16th century Spanish contact.

Leslie K. Pooler, Ph.D.: Saving Florida – Women’s Fight for the Environment in the Twentieth Century

Florida is renowned for its beautiful beaches, natural springs, and subtropical wilderness. However, dredge-and-fill projects, air pollution, and pesticides spread so uncontrollably during the twentieth century that they sparked an environmental movement. Those who engaged in and led the fight were often women.

Jeff Stotts: Sandy Cornish’s War Garden

Jeff Stotts interest in horticultural practices throughout the Florida Keys has led to extensive research on Sandy Cornish, freed slave and civil war gardener. Cornish’s garden, formerly located at the site of The Basilica of St Mary Star of the Sea, was regarded as the “the best fruit grove and garden on the island” enjoyed by malnourished soldiers and visited by dignitaries such as Salmon P. Chase.

Frank Conlan: Kinetic Sculptures: From Theory to Reality

Frank Conlan, a self-professed tinkerer, and building contractor by trade, entered the Kinetic world on Roller skates as a Kinetic Cop. Inspired by Hobart Brown, the founder of the Kinetic Sculpture Race, Frank made his foray into the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore, with a sculpture titled D-Vine – the Grape Stompers, a tribute to filmmaker John Waters.

Tom Hambright: The Navy in Key West

Join us for a memorable presentation by retired Lieutenant Commander and Monroe County Historian Hambright, a living repository of Key West history. Having overseen the archives of the Monroe County Library for the past 30 years Tom’s passion for history and curiosity has led to the revelation of intriguing stories.

John Hemingway: Pamplona Posse

Imagine running with a herd of half-ton stampeding bulls down the narrow, cobbled streets of Pamplona, hoping to God you don’t get gored.  Every year, thousands do, including the grandson of the world’s most famous writer, John Hemingway.

John Blades: Henry Flagler’s Yacht, A Banana King, and the Founding of the State of Israel

Willie Drye: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935

Author and National Geographic News Contributing Editor Willie Drye unraveled the fascinating story of the most powerful hurricane in U.S. history in his highly praised book, Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

Henry Schvey: The Plastic Theater of Tennessee Williams

Henry I. Schvey, Professor of Drama and Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis—the same institution where Williams was enrolled as a student during 1936-37—will examine how Williams’s lifelong preoccupation with painting provides a crucial key to understanding his plays. Beginning with the breakthrough success, The Glass Menagerie (1944), Williams developed a style he termed “Plastic Theatre,” concluding that his theatrical work should be seen almost as a kind of visual art, in which “The printed script of a play is hardly more than an architect’s blueprint of a house not yet built…its message lies in those abstract beauties of form and color and line.”

Moderated Panel: The Key West/Bahamas Connection

Early settlers in the Florida Keys came from a variety of places, including Cuba, New England, the mid-Atlantic and Europe. Perhaps the most influential of the initial settlers were the Bahamians. During the first two decades 18th century, Bahamians visited the region, being attracted to the wealth obtained through salvaging wrecked ships, fishing, and logging tropical hardwoods. After Key West was purchased by John Simonton in 1822, Bahamians moved to the Florida Keys in large numbers. Families settled along the length of the island chain, driven by the poor economic situation in the Bahamas, and the ability to start afresh in an area that provided a number of opportunities.