Key West had many industries before tourism including salvage wrecking, fishing, salt production, and the collection and trade of sponges. Wrecking made Key West the wealthiest city in Florida by the mid 1800s. Many of the luxury items salvaged can still be found in the homes of Key West today.
Key West was connected with the rest of American during the early part of the 20th Century when Henry Flagler built the Overseas Railway through he Florida Keys. The great railroad was destroyed a few years later in 1935 during a violent hurricane. The storm took the lives of hundreds of people. The railroad was not rebuilt, but the U.S. government did build the first road to Key West using the remaining railroad infrastructure.
Since the building of the Overseas Highway Key West has been a popular tourist destination. There have been some ups and downs over the years, but the island seems destined now to hold the title as one of America’s best tourist locations for many years. Key West has become the end of the road for everyone from starving artist, writers, homosexuals, beach bums, and millionaires, each one contributing something unique to make Key West a very special place.