November 14, 2019 – (Key West, FL). Old Monroe County Jail added to Key West Art & Historical Society’s Key West Historic Marker Tours
On Monday, November 11, a historic marker was installed at the Old Monroe County Jail located on the corner of Fleming and Whitehead Street as part of Key West Art & Historical Society’s Key West Historic Marker Tours, a multi-platform, self-guided, and free tour program of Key West’s historic sites devised to highlight the island’s unique multi-cultural history and heritage.
“Recognizing and preserving our local history is such an important part of the fabric of this community and it’s amazing to see this jail, which was built almost 200 years ago, is still standing today,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “It’s a testament to the quality of workmanship that went into it and I’m proud that we’re keeping this important part of our law enforcement history alive.”
The jail, which dates back to 1828, was built two years after the county courthouse, both from red bricks that were transported by sailing ships from the mainland. The buildings were considered impressive civic accomplishments and served as a symbol of Monroe County’s position as the largest city in Florida at that time.
Over the next century, the jail went through several rebuilds, including a ten-foot high concrete wall expansion for added security and the addition of a two-story concrete cell block to increase the prison’s capacity. In 1952, the front was demolished and replaced with a new jail along with an office for the Monroe County Sherriff, which was replaced in 1965 by a new courthouse annex. Today, only the most rear portion of the original building remains, including the two-story cell block and sections of the concrete enclosure.
Originally designed and launched by Bruce Neff, the Key West Historic Markers Program merged with Key West Art & Historical Society in 2018. The program consists of three primary elements: a map of cultural and museum attractions featuring 121 historic location markers that pay tribute to Key West’s colorful past, phone apps that act as a personal museum docent to support those taking the self-led walking tours, and a comprehensive website at KWHMT.org that provides a virtual tour of Key West, historic background and community information, digital collections of local postcards and cigar box art, and links to Google maps.
Key West has one of the largest historic districts with the densest amassing of historic frame vernacular buildings in the country. The island’s history encompasses unique architecture, Civil War forts, famous authors’ homes, connection to wars and revolutions, once-thriving turtle and sponging industries, sunken treasure galleons, slave ships, Flagler’s railroad, boom and bust economies, and much more. Hemingway Rum Company and Pan Am were both recently installed as well.
The Old Monroe County Jail marker is sponsored by The Monroe County Commission. To plan your own tour of the program’s many markers, visit the Key West Historic Marker Tour website at KWHMT.org, download the free Key West Historic Marker Tour phone app at keywest.oncell.com, or call 305-507-0300 for a free Key West “Voices of History” phone tour. For more information, contact curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D., at 305-295-6616 x112. Your Museums. Your Community. It takes an Island.
Rick Ramsay, Sheriff of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, is pictured with the newly installed Historic Marker #107 at the site of the Old Monroe County Jail, now a stop on Key West Art & Historical Society’s Key West Historic Marker Tours, a multi-platform, self-guided, and free tour program of the city’s historic sites.