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Shipwreck Historeum Tower
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Shipwreck Historeum

Shipwreck Historeum

Shipwreck Historeum

The Shipwreck Historeum is a highly visible Key West attraction, located right behind Mallory Square and across from the Key West Aquarium.  It is not, however, one of the Top Ten Things to Do in Key West.  The tour guides visitors through the dark hallway of salvaged goods from yesteryear, set up in a way so we can easily imagine the warehouse as it was back in the 18th and 19th centuries. You can purchase tickets at a booth just outside the building.

The tour guides are dressed in period costume and give the tour in character, but we would have been a lot happier with just a pamphlet or audioguide for our mp3 player.   The salvaged goods were strewn about in dark corners without much attempt at interpretation or museumship.  In other words, it seemed like it was still just a warehouse, the only difference is now there’s an admission fee which includes being led around by an irritable clown dressed up in costume.

The supposed big highlight of the tour was being able to watch clips from an old 1940s movie made about the salvaging industry in Key West.  We skipped it because it’s not that great of a movie, to begin with, and we’d seen it on Netflix.  Not even sure it was filmed in Key West.

The saving grace of this Key West attraction was the rooftop observatory, which back in salvaging days was used to spot ships wrecked on the reef.  Once spotted, these shipwrecks became targets of aggressive, competing for salvaging operations who raced out to be the first on the scene….not to save the men overboard, but to claim ownership of the treasure and management of wrecking activities. One can get nice views and snapshots over Key West from up there.

Shipwreck Historeum Tower

Shipwreck Historeum Tower

The Key West Lighthouse
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Key West Lighthouse

The Key West Lighthouse

The Key West Lighthouse

Tucked away on the edge of  Bahama Village, near Hemingway House, is the Key West lighthouse.  It’s an historical lighthouse, built in 1847 and together with the lighthouse keeper’s house, makes a fun Key West attraction for anyone who wants to learn about the history of Key West or who loves lighthouses.  It replaced an older tower that was built in 1825 to help ships navigate the dangerous reefs off Key West.  The original was 46 feet high.  In 1894 it was extended to 86 feet tall.

Visitors can climb all the way to the top of the lighthouse on a circular stairway for a great view of Key West if they reach the top.  Many of the old features of the lighthouse have been restored, including pipes that carried acetylene gas for the lights.  Originally, the lighthouse was lit by oil lamps – 15 of them.  It was electrified in the 1920s.

The Key West lighthouse was operational until 1969 and made a museum twenty years later.  The keeper’s quarters are also restored and open to the public.