Today is a different kind of day for us. For the most part we have all done everything together as a family, but today, we do not. The kids want to drive south to check out the 7 Mile Bridge, Key West, and on down to the Southernmost Point of the Continental US.
Dad and I decide that we will stay at the rental house so the kids can all ride together in one car, rather than having to take the two that we usually need for our family of 7 plus one.
A little history about the Seven Mile Bridge.
This bridge connects the middle Keys to the lower Keys and is one of the longest bridges in existence. There are actually 2 bridges, the modern bridge that was completed in 1982, and that serves as the bridge that is currently open to vehicular traffic, and the older bridge, which was constructed between 1909-1912. Due to extreme deterioration, the older bridge is currently under construction and is not currently open to the public.
The original and first bridge structure was actually built as a railway to serve as a bridge for the railroad. Back in the early 1900’s a man named Henry Morrison Flagler, a self-made oil business millionaire and partial founder/owner of Rockefeller’s famous Standard Oil Company, founded the Florida East Coast Railway, and during that time he had decided that he wanted his railroad to go all the way through the Keys.
With $30 million dollars of his own money and an additional $50 million dollars from the state, the construction began. In 1908 Flagler’s workers reached Marathon Key, where they were unexpectedly greeted with seven miles of open water. After researching various kinds of cement, Henry located a type made in England, that would set and dry underwater. He had employed approximately 4000 workers who were each paid $1.50/day. The workers waded through the swamps full of mud, crocodiles, snakes, huge mosquitoes and extreme heat. After years of hard labor, illness and unfortunately the death of many of his workers, the bridge was finally completed in 1916. At the age of 82 years old, Flagler stepped out of his private railcar and announced “Now I can die a happy man”.
Sadly, on Labor Day of 1935, tragedy hit. No one knew it at the time, but the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the US was about to roll in. After 200-mph winds, the survivors witnessed virtually every palm tree on the island snap in half. The railcars were blown off their tracks and only a 320,000 pound locomotive stood up to the storm. More than 400 bodies were recovered after the storm. They had all perished in the hurricane. The Flagler railroad was no more…
It was eventually re-built, but for this original bridge, it was history…
To learn more about this bridge, you can go to https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/florida-keys/the-keys-seven-mile-bridge.html .
Side note… a little known fact about the bridge currently standing today… Our kids all came back from their drive across the bridge a little dismayed because after crossing the bridge, they learned that it is actually not 7 miles, but it’s actually 6.79 miles, which is obviously a bit shorter than the original 7 mile bridge. My guess is the length changed after the rebuild.
Since the kids were gone for a good part of the day, Dad and I went out to purchase a few souvenirs and then we spent some time just relaxing by the pool. The kids returned back from Key West around dinnertime and since everyone was super tired from the long drive there and back, we decided to just wing it for dinner, with everyone on their own.
Tonight is bittersweet for us because we only have one more full day left in the Keys.
We will be sad when we have to say goodbye.. But for now… It’s time for bed…