After the 1935 Hurricane -- famously known as the Labor Day Hurricane due to its timing -- tore across Islamorada in the Florida Keys, the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) constructed 28 concrete homes for residents who owned property and lost their homes between 1936-1938, according to Jerry Wilkinson, president of the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys. They also built four wooden structures - two commercial; and two residential.
Of the 28 concrete homes, 19 were built in Upper Matecumbe Key in Islamorada, seven on Plantation Key and two in Tavernier. Two have been torn down, but the rest remain.
Wilkinson will present a free talk and slide show about the Florida Keys Red Cross houses Monday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Key Largo Library Community Room, mile marker 101.5 bayside.
The Red Cross built one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom houses. The appearance was the same except the more bedrooms, the longer the house. They were configured differently inside, but the width was the same, Wilkinson says on his website http://keyshistory.org/. The outside walls are 12 inches thick and easily reparable.
The lower section of the house featured a water cistern divided into two compartments. The walls, floors, partitions and roof were made of reinforced concrete. Above can be seen the effects of the salt water mixed into the concrete and the steel reinforcement bar. Rust caused the "spauling."
The cistern’s outer walls were formed and the cistern partitions would serve as support for the later inner walls of the house, according to Wilkinson.
To learn more, attend the presentation, call Wilkinson at 305-852-1620 or visit http://keyshistory.org/.