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Islamorada in Monroe County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Hurricane Monument

 
 
Hurricane Monument Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tim Fillmon, September 11, 2014
1. Hurricane Monument Marker
Inscription.  The veterans of World War I, under the Florida Emergency Relief Administration, were building piers in channel 2, just below Lower Matecumbe, when the greatest storm ever hit this part of the Keys. The 200-plus mile per hour winds with a barometer reading of 26.35 and 18-foot tidal waves destroyed everything on the Matecumbes and Windley Key.

Many of the bodies were cremated where they were found, and later their ashes were placed in a crypt. There are approximately 300 remains here. Thirty-eight were cremated at Snake Creek, 136 on Upper Marecumbe, and 82 on Lower Matecumbe. Many other bodies were found on the islands in Florida Bay and on the mainland from east of Flamingo to Cape Sable.

The first bodies were taken to Woodlawn cemetery on Miami, but after the fourth day, Dade County refused to let the dead enter and the rest were cremated.

On November 14, 1937, this monument was dedicated to those who lost their lives in the devastating hurricane. This monument is a memorial to the veterans who were building bridges, the people who lived in the area, the visitors, and the railway employees who lost their lives
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on that fateful day.

The monument is built of Keys coral limestone and is 65 feet long by 20 feet wide. The crypt is dug into the bedrock and extends above the floor of the monument. The crypt is covered by a 22-foot ceramic map of the Keys with Matecumbe in the center. This is where the destruction was the greatest. In the back you see a coral stone shaft 12 feet high, with a carved sculpture and a bronze plaque reading, "dedicated to the memory of the civilians and the war veterans whose lives were lost in the hurricane of September 2, 1935."

This monument was built by the Florida Works Progress Administration (WPA) at a cost of $12,000, using 40 workmen. It was sponsored by the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners, and the School Board furnished the property.

People came from all over Florida for the dedication. About 4,000 people were in attendance. The ceremonies included speeches and tributes from government, military, and local organizations. The dedication began at 12:30 pm with the masting of the colors as 4,000 people looked on. The WPA symphony orchestra played Verdi's Aida, and the invocation was given by Rev. J. Yancy of the Matecumbe Methodist Church. This was followed by the audience singing "America," led by Mrs. Charles Moon of Coral Gables, accompanied by the Federal Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Sandquist, District
Hurricane Monument Markers behind the monument image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tim Fillmon, September 11, 2014
2. Hurricane Monument Markers behind the monument
Director of the WPA, introduced Col. PJ O'Shaughnessy, chairman of the program committee, who explained the purpose of the monument and those whom it memorializes. He pointed out that of the 270 people living in the hurricane area, 167 were missing. Lt. Thomas J. Kelly, commander of the Harvey Seeds Post American Legion of Miami, was very vocal in his address. He vehemently protested the building of more sepulchers for the dead and demanded protection from the elements for those who are living. He also pointed out the contrast of the sunny dedication day in 1937 to that day on September 2, 1935, saying there have been some dark days on these islands.

Dr. John Tigert, president of the University of Florida at Gainesville, read a telegram from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It read, "I join in the dedication of the monument to those who met death in the awful visitation that swept the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935. The disaster which made desolate the hearts of so many of our people brought a personal sorrow to me because some years ago I knew many residents of the Keys. I tender to all whose hearts were torn by loss of loved ones an assurance of heartfelt sympathy."

Dr. Tigert claimed this site in the public's eye belongs with the green hills of Gettysburg, the quiet hills of Shiloh, or maybe more appropriately with historic Jamestown or Galveston.

Dr.
Hurricane Monument. Marker is located behind. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tim Fillmon, September 11, 2014
3. Hurricane Monument. Marker is located behind.
Tigert then introduced Fay Marie Parker, only 9 years old, who pulled the cord unveiling the monument, revealing the storm structure.

Then Mr. Simonds, chairman of the patriotic observance committee, presented the many veterans and patriotic groups. As each name was read, a representative placed a wreath at the base of the crypt.

The Russell family survivors also presented a wreath in memory of the 50 family members they lost.

After the benediction, the audience, led by Mrs. Moon, sang the "Star Spangled Banner" accompanied by the symphony orchestra and the drum bugle corps.

May those who lost their lives forever rest in peace.
 
Topics. This historical marker and monument is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesDisastersSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical date for this entry is November 14, 1937.
 
Location. 24° 55.03′ N, 80° 38.153′ W. Marker is in Islamorada, Florida, in Monroe County. Marker is on Old Highway north of Johnston Road, on the left when traveling north. Marker is located behind the stone Hurricane Monument. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 81831 Old Hwy, Islamorada FL 33036, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The 1935 Hurricane (here, next to this marker); The Florida Keys Memorial (a few steps from this marker); The Sweeting House
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(about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Hurricane Houses (about 500 feet away); Pioneer Cemetery (approx. 0.2 miles away); Green Turtle Inn (approx. half a mile away); Islamorada Baptist Church (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Storm that Still Howls (approx. 0.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Islamorada.
 
Also see . . .  1935 Hurricane Monument. The Florida Keys Monument by Jerry Wilkinson (Submitted on June 17, 2020.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 17, 2020. It was originally submitted on June 16, 2020, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida. This page has been viewed 377 times since then and 22 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 16, 2020, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 21, 2024