17 March 2022
KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The 200th anniversary of Key West’s first permanent settlement is to be highlighted by a celebration commemorating the date of March 25, 1822, when U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Perry planted the American flag on island soil.
Set for March 19-30, “Key West 200th" is to include the Key West Maritime Historical Society’s presentation of Perry’s original logbook, which details his voyage to the island on the U.S.S. Shark, for permanent safekeeping at the Monroe County Public Library’s Florida History Department in Key West. The ceremony is scheduled at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 20, aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum, a national historic landmark.
Ordered by the Navy, Perry arrived to physically claim the Florida Keys as U.S. territory. The islands’ strategic location guarded the northern edge of the Florida Straits, the deep-water route between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
Other pivotal events are to take place Friday, March 25, to commemorate Perry’s planting of the American flag. Set for Mallory Square beside Key West Harbor, activities include the dedication of a granite time capsule to be opened in 50 years, the designation of four Key West children to be ambassadors at the island’s 250th anniversary celebration, a color guard presentation and comments by dignitaries and special guests.
That night, the Old Island Restoration Foundation is to host the Key West Bicentennial Celebratory Gala at the Oldest House Museum and Gardens, 322 Duval St. Attendees are encouraged to dress in period or “island formal” attire to enjoy the gala’s music, artifact displays, VIP guest speakers, light fare and libations.
Saturday, March 26, brings the all-day Bicentennial Heritage Festival at Truman Waterfront Park at the end of Southard Street. Plans call for family-friendly activities, stage performances with local music and historic talks, and a silent, eco-friendly drone fireworks display.
Other “Key West 200th” events include a screening of the documentary, “Key West: Come as You Are: 200 Years of History and Culture,” scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, at the Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, 1500 Reynolds St.
An evening “Conch Revival Picnic” is planned for Wednesday, March 23, featuring informal island cuisine at the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters, 938 Whitehead St. The following evening, Florida Keys historian Tom Hambright is to discuss Key West’s colorful history at the landmark San Carlos Institute, 516 Duval St.
Throughout March, baseball fans can celebrate Key West’s longstanding connection to the sport by viewing “Play Ball!,” a multivenue exhibit of 200 artist-decorated baseball bats held at the Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton St.; the Historic Gato Building, 1100 Simonton St.; and the Oldest House Museum.
The bicentennial celebration is commemorated all year in the “Key West 200” exhibit at the Key West Art & Historical Society’s Custom House Museum, 281 Front St. Continuing through Dec. 11, the exhibit showcases rarely displayed artifacts from the island’s industries and commerce, migrations, transportation and architecture, culture and community, as well as influential milestones such as the Civil War, Great Depression and World War II.
Additional festivities throughout the year include Tropic Cinema’s monthly showings of films shot in Key West, historic and architectural walking tours, lectures, presentations and harbor tours.
Commemorations are to continue in 2023, when Naval Air Station Key West honors the bicentennial of the 1823 establishment of the island’s first naval base. In addition, July 2023 marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Keys’ Monroe County.
Key West 200th information: keywest200th.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
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