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  • Harry S. Truman Little White HouseHarry S. Truman Little White House Key West, Florida
    The Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West, Florida was the winter retreat and White House for the 33rd President of the United States, when he visited the small island on 11 visits that totaled 175 days altogether, and is sits in the Truman Annex neighborhood of Old Town, Key West. The house had originally been a waterfront cottage when it was constructed in 1890 as the first officer's quarters located on the naval submarine base, with the wooden duplex housing the commandant in Quarters A and Quarters B for the paymaster. It would be transformed into a single family in 1911 where the commandant would live, with more land filled in at its front. Soon, the marvelous view that had been part of the charm of the house would be obscured by a new building that was constructed for the base. William Howard Taft would be the first president to visit the base, in December, 1912, coming by Flagler's Overseas Railroad and he would then sail to Panama to see how the new canal was doing that was under construction. Thomas Edison would use the habitat during WWI, while he donated his services to the nation, perfecting 41 weapons while he was here for six months. The house would continue to be used a command headquarters during WWII, until 1946, when Truman's doctor ordered the President to take a vacation in a warm climate since he hadn't gone anywhere during his first 19 months in office. Harry came here in November, and when he left, he promised to come back whenever he felt tired and needed rest. The next time he came here would be in the spring of 1947, which seemed to start a pattern of visits every November-December and February-March, with the modern changing technology allowing him to keep in touch with all pertinent people, as well as world leaders. It wasn't long before Harry realized that wherever the President of the United States was, that was also where the White House would be located, for that period. Any types of documents that were sent from there would have The White House, US Naval Station, Key West, Florida. It would be in this small vacation home that James Forrestal and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would meet in 1947 to finish the details about the new Department of Defense, and all these meetings would later be called the Key West Accords. Once Harry was out of office, he came here several times, but always stayed elsewhere. In 1948 and 1949, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, would hold a number of meetings here that would finally lead to the creation of the Department of Defense, returning in December 1955 and January 1956 as the President and to recuperate from a heart attack. In March of 1961, John Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan came here to hold a one day conference, with President Kennedy coming back here in 1962 after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended. The house continued to be the naval station's commandant's quarters until March of 1974, when the base would close since the Navy converted from diesel to nuclear submarines, and in February the little White House would be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, in January, 1987, the house was deeded to the state of Florida to open as a public museum. In 1990, more than a million dollars would be spent in its restoration to what it was in 1949, and a nonprofit is currently trying to renovate it further, although it has opened as a state historic site and museum, with former President Jimmy Carter and his family coming here to have a reunion in 1996. In 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell, opened a week long talk about OSCE peace, led by the Minsk Group co-chairman, Carey Cavanaugh between President Robert Korcharyan of Armenia and Heydar Aliyev of Axerbaijan. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton came here in 2005 for a relaxing weekend, and it continues to stand and encourage visitors to this historical house on the edge of Key West.

  • Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
    Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Key West, FloridaThe Fort Taylor State Historic Site in Key West, Florida is well known to locals as Fort Taylor or Fort Zach, and is the southern most state park in the United States, and also a National Historic Landmark that is highlighted by a Civil War era fort that sits by the southern tip of the island. The construction of the fort would start in 1845, as part of a large mid-19th century plan to fortify the southeast coastline with forts. It would be named after President Zachary Taylor in 1850, just a few months after his sudden death in the office, while yellow fever and material shortages hindered the construction that would continue through the 1850s. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Federal captain John Milton Brannan seized control of the fort, wanting to make sure that the fort wouldn't fall into Confederate hands, as well as using it as an outpost to threaten blockade runners. When it was built, it was surrounded by water, with a small walkway connecting it to the mainland, being finished in 1866. Part of an upper level on one side would be demolished in 1889, to make way for more modern cannons and guns, with the older guns being buried on the outside wall foundations to save on materials. It would take the Spanish-American War to get the fort back up to par and useful, until 1947, when it was no longer needed by the army; and finally turned over to the US Navy to maintain. Then, in 1968, a group of volunteers led by Howard S. England, would excavate the Civil War guns and ammunitions that had been buried there for more than a century, and it would be discovered that the cache of weapons found would be the biggest collection of Civil War cannons in the nation. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and then made a National Historic Landmark in 1973. The park contains 87 acres of land now, and parts of it that had been closer to downtown was annexed into the Truman Annex that is about three miles to the northwest.

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  • Ernest Hemingway Home and MuseumErnest Hemingway Home and Museum Key West, Florida
    The Ernest Hemingway House, is also known as the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, in Key West, Florida, is the former house and residence of the famous author, Ernest Hemingway, located on Whitehead Street by a marvelous lighthouse located near the southern tip of the island, becoming a National Historic Landmark in 1968. The house was Hemingway's home from 1931 to 1939, and is now a for profit landmark and tourist attraction, populated by six and seven toed cats that many guides throughout the city have stated are the direct descendants of Hemingway's cats. However, his son, Patrick spoke in a 1994 interview for the Miami Herald that his father had peacocks in Key West and cats in Cuba. His widow, Mary denounced the "sale of Hemingway's cats" by the owners of the house to be an outright lie and exploitation of his name. They have since stopped selling them, although they still continue to raise them using selective breeding program to get the six and seven toed cats. Ernest did his best work here, including the final draft to "A Farewell to Arms" and the short stories, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro". The house only sits about 16 feet above sea level, which just happens to be the second highest point on the island, originally constructed by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker. He had it constructed in 1851, in the colonial southern mansion style, with limestone that had been quarried from the site. As a staunch testament to the construction methods and materials, the house has continued to withstand many hard hitting hurricanes, while the deep basement stayed dry, as it still is. The Hemingway family lived in the city beginning in 1930, although they had rented housing, until Pauline Hemingway, his second wife, found the Tift house in 1931, being sold at a tax auction. Pauline's uncle, Gus, purchased the house for $8000 cash, and gave it to them as a wedding gift. This marvelous house had been one of the first to get indoor plumbing and the first on the island to have an upstairs bathroom with running water that had to be fed from a roof rain cistern. There is a built-in fireplace, and the first swimming pool in Key West. Pauline spent about $20,000 to have the deep well fed pool installed for her husband, when he was gone as a Spanish civil war correspondent in 1938. When Hemingway got back, he would be mildly but unpleasantly surprised by the expense, supposedly exclaiming that "well, you might as well have my last cent." The penny he was talking about is today, embedded in the concrete by the pool today. Patrick would mention this in the article for the Herald, and others had told guides that it had been "apocryphal". The local visitor bureau would include the house in a brochure for tourists, in 1935, so Hemingway had his friend, handyman and driver, Toby Bruce build the tall brick wall that surrounds the house now. Hemingway would get a urinal from the renovations at Sloppy Joe's bar and transform it into a water fountain in the yard, where it is showcased and used by the cats for water. The house is a marvel to visit and wonder about the many things that went on here, and why they ever left.

  • Key West Shipwreck Historeum Museum
    Key West Shipwreck Historeum Museum Key West, FloridaThe Key West Shipwreck Historeum Museum sits along Whitehead Street in Key West, Florida, mixing films, actors and the authentic relics that were recovered from the 1985 wrecked vessel, Isaac Allerton, that had sank on the Florida keys in 1856, and became one of the richest shipwrecks in the city's history. The museum describes the story from the point of view from wrecker Asa Tift and his wrecking crew, as he describes the fantastic story of how this unique industry gave livelihoods to the early pioneers of the island. The Isaac Allerton had been made at Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1838, weighing 594 tons and 137 feet long. It was a merchant ship that traveled the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic Ocean. It met a hurricane in 1856, sinking in Hawks Channel thirty feet below the surface. At that time, thirty feet was considered very deep, so the Key West wreckers couldn't salvage all the cargo, but what they were able to save enabled them to have a $50,000 payday, making it the richest wreck in the history of Key West. Then, in 1985, she would be rediscovered by a group of local divers that were searching for the famous Atocha wreck.

January 11, 2011