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History of Elliot Key, Key Biscayne & Coconut Grove lecture April 28 in the Keys

Lancelot Jones and his Porgy Keys homestead figured prominently in the preservation of Biscayne Bay as a national park.
Lancelot Jones and his Porgy Keys homestead figured prominently in the preservation of Biscayne Bay as a national park.
Jill Zima Borski

The preservation of the northern Keys fertile fishing grounds and natural areas as well as Ocean Reef as it is today owe themselves to the acts of a few about a half century ago.

Dr. John Nordt will show a PowerPoint presentation Monday, April 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Island Community Church, mile marker 83 bayside on the history of Elliot Key, the northern most home of the Florida Keys, Biscayne Bay, Key Biscayne and Coconut Grove. He will share insight into the Upper Keys in the late 19th century discussing several unique characters such as the Jones family who played significant roles in the period from 1895 to 1990.

Nordt will share the evolution of Biscayne Bay and the Upper Keys in its transition from wrecking to agriculture, from land development to a national park. Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo was particularly in development’s way as a planned highway from Miami to Key Largo was to cut through what is now an exclusive gated community which features three golf courses, tennis, a marina and more. The orientation of the Ocean Reef airstrip was designed to chart the course of the highway if it did come to pass, although the owners worried about splitting the community in half.

A major highway through Ocean Reef was a key part of “Islandia,” a development planned in the 1960s to include all the islands from Key Biscayne to Ocean Reef. The plan failed, largely because Lancelot Jones, the owner of Porgy and Totten Keys, refused to sell. He did agree eventually to sell to the National Park Service, thus enabling this group of islands to become part of Biscayne National Park. Consequently, Ocean Reef did not become just another Florida Keys village divided by a highway.

Dr. Nordt is a board certified specialist in orthopedic surgery. He was a full time instructor at the University of Miami and worked with the Miami Dolphins. He is an historian, active in the Historical Museum of Miami and the Map Fair. He lived in Islamorada as a boy. He takes care of patients in the Florida Keys as he travels to Marathon and Ocean Reef a few times each month.

Admission to the lecture is free, thanks to the Matecumbe Historical Trust based in Islamorada. For more information, call Barbara Edgar at 305-393-0940 or visit

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