The Florida Keys Discovery Center in Islamorada opened a new exhibit Aug. 28, The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, which features more than 75 images that not only capture the Upper Keys before the destructive category five hurricane, but also the extraordinary aftermath. The exhibit runs through Sunday, Nov. 9. Evening lectures are planned.
The Labor Day hurricane was named that at a time when the alphabet was not used to name and organize hurricanes. The whirlwind destroyed Henry Flagler’s momentous achievement of the railway that connected the islands of the Keys to the mainland. The Florida Keys Overseas Railway was completed in January 1912. After the hurricane, the compacted earth that once held tracks became the roadbed of the Overseas Highway, for the automobile was beginning to take hold in America.
A Florida Keys Memorial depicting swaying palm trees was unveiled and dedicated in 1937 at mile marker 82 in front of an estimated audience of 4,000 people by nine-year-old Fay Marie Parker, who came from one of Islamorada’s founding families. More than 300 people’s remains are contained in the crypt. The Parker, Russell and Pinder families, all residents of Islamorada at the time, were deeply affected by the powerful tidal surge and winds.
The Discovery Center is located on the property of the Islander Resort, at mile marker 82. For more information, call 305-922-2237 or visit www.keysdiscovery.com. Additional Florida Keys history websites include www.keyshistory.org and www.matecumbehistoricaltrust.com.