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The Florida Keys & Key West

Florida Keys News

New Literary Tour, Gallery and Exhibits Await Summer Travelers

FLORIDA KEYS — The pace of life slows a bit in the Florida Keys & Key West during the summer months, but visitors interested in history, culture and the underwater world will find new attractions to enjoy, particularly in Key West and Islamorada.

The Key West Literary Seminar has launched an Old Town Literary Walking Tour on weekends in Key West, departing from the Monroe County Public Library at 700 Fleming St.

A knowledgeable, entertaining guide leads the tours and shares stories of writers and their works. Inspired by an original walking tour created by former Key West writer David Kaufelt, the new tour features the former homes and favorite haunts of Tennessee Williams, Shel Silverstein, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost and others.

The 75-minute tour departs Fridays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and is priced at $25 per person; advance purchase is required. Call 305-293-9291.

Also on the southernmost island, the Key West Art & Historical Society has renovated its permanent museum exhibit, “Overseas to the Keys — Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway,” at the Custom House at 281 Front St.

The second-floor exhibit, first launched in 2012, showcases Keys history through the engineering feat of the construction of Flagler’s famed Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. The rail line was completed in 1912, connecting the Keys to each other and to the Florida mainland for the first time.

New exhibit elements include an oversized map of the Keys with details of Flagler’s bridge extension, a 1920s-era home video shot from the railroad, a railroad tie, signal lantern, switch light and a 50-page souvenir booklet titled “Beautiful Florida - Scenes Along the East Coast Railway, The Winter Playground of the Nation,” originally priced at $1.25. Call 305-295-6616.

In Islamorada, the History of Diving Museum at mile marker 83 observes this year’s 15th anniversary of the sinking of the Spiegel Grove with an exhibit about the history of the artificial reef. The exhibit continues through Sept. 4.

The 510-foot-long, 84-foot-tall former U.S. Navy ship was sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef about 6 miles off Key Largo.

Today the Spiegel Grove, the third-largest ship ever scuttled to create a new reef for divers, is an entire artificial reef ecosystem. It is surrounded by colorful corals and more than 200 different species of fish identified by the Key Largo-based Reef Environmental Education Foundation.

The museum showcases historic Spiegel Grove artifacts and outlines the story of its positive environmental impact.

From 1956 to its decommissioning in 1989, Spiegel Grove helped to enforce America’s Cold War strategy, transporting troops and military equipment to support friendly governments. From 1962 to 1971, the ship also was part of a NASA recovery support fleet.

The History of Diving Museum is located at 82990 Overseas Highway. Call 305-664-9737.

For Islamorada visitors interested in unique and compelling artistry, a new David Wirth Gallery — the artist’s second — has opened adjacent to Mangrove Mike’s Cafe at mile marker 82.2 bayside.

The gallery showcases the marine and wildlife sculptor’s original style of art, wood and bronze sculpture and a new line of local slab wood furniture. Works by Florida wildlife artist Nancy Tome also are exhibited.

The new David Wirth Gallery is located at 82200 Overseas Highway. Wirth’s first gallery, also with a workshop and showroom, is located at 88888 Old Road in Tavernier. Call 305-244-2466.

Florida Keys & Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS

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Custom House renovated its permanent museum exhibit called Overseas to the Keys — Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway.

Custom House renovated its permanent museum exhibit called Overseas to the Keys — Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway.

Weekend Old Town Literary Walking Tours stroll through downtown Key West.

Weekend Old Town Literary Walking Tours stroll through downtown Key West.

History of Diving Museum is to host the Spiegel Grove exhibit until Sept. 4, 2017.

History of Diving Museum is to host the Spiegel Grove exhibit until Sept. 4, 2017.

David Wirth, a marine and wildlife sculptor, displays one of his authentic circle hooks.

David Wirth, a marine and wildlife sculptor, displays one of his authentic circle hooks.

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