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Islamorada History

First sighting by the Spanish in 1513. They gave the area its name, which means Purple Isle. This incorporated village is a popular destination for Florida Keys vacations as it encompasses Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Lignumvitae Key and Indian Key.

A Spanish treasure fleet was wrecked on the reefs of Islamorada during a hurricane in 1733. This may be the origins of the salvage business that thrived in the area for many years. Well into the 1900s, there were numerous "wrecking" businesses who retrieved cargo from sunken vessels and split the take with the ship owner.

Ship owners were often not happy about having to split the cargo with local business owners, who often had a bad reputation. But, without these services, they would have lost 100 percent of their cargo when their ships sank. Hostilities between a famous local "wrecker" and Native Americans led to a massacre on Indian Key Islamorada in 1940.

The Labor Day Hurricane, September 2, 1935

In late August, barometric readings predicted a great storm. Citizens were warned that a hurricane was coming. Weather predication of this era was primitive. They had no way to know it would be a Category 5 storm, like Hurricane Andrew.

On September 2nd, for the first time ever, a plane was flown into the area to locate the hurricane. A train was sent down to the area to try to evacuate people. But, 200 mph winds and an 18 foot tidal surge derailed the train, laying most of it on its side. Although the storm was narrow, it made a near clean sweep of the land.

New Deal highway construction had 695 WWI veterans camped in the area. A memorial to those who died in the hurricane can be found at Overseas Highway mile marker 82.

Notable residents include Miguel Cabrera, Gene Hackman, Jimmy Johnson, and Ted Williams. If you think the area looks familiar, you may recognize it from the TV show Bloodline which was filmed in Islamorada.

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