Key West Art & Historical Society announces a merger with Key West Historic Markers, Inc., a multi-platform, self-guided and free tour program of Key West’s historic sites designed to highlight the island’s unique multi-cultural history and heritage. Though the nonprofit will remain a separate corporation, the Society will serve as stewards to its programs and research and propel the founders’ vision forward.
“The Society is humbled and excited to carry on the great work of Bruce Neff and Key West Historic Markers,” says Society Executive Director Michael Gieda. “Bruce and KWHM’s Board of Directors have done a phenomenal job in preserving Key West history, which is evident in the marker program, historic walking map and free tour program.”
When Neff, one of the founders of Key West Historic Markers, spearheaded the development of the Gato Village Pocket Park at 616 Louisa Street in 2008, he was struck by the many residents that stopped to relate childhood and family experiences about the location.
“It helped crystalized the idea that we don’t know much of anything about the buildings we walk by every day,” says Neff. “That, coupled with my interest in the information you can glean from state and local historic plaques when you travel, was the catalyst for the tour program.”
After city and state code regulation approvals, the development of a comprehensive, integrated website that would make any local historian swoon, and “months and months of research,” the non-profit entity shaped into what is now a map of cultural and museum attractions featuring 121 historic location markers that pay tribute to Key West’s colorful past, with phone apps that act as a personal museum docent to support those taking the self-led walking tours.
“Some of our first markers resulted from responses we got from some initial coverage in the paper and radio, while other choices came from suggestions by my Board of Directors,” says Neff. “As the years passed, grants pointed us to various marker sites. Homeowners requested markers. There was no specific order; it was mainly first come first serve. The advantage of this approach was it created a marker list of people who were focused on their part in Key West history.”
Neff has most enjoyed “discovering some of the backstories of historic sites and the history the homes hold,” he says.
“The more sites that I researched, the better picture I got of who we were and how we got to where we are today. The work creates a true sense of belonging.”
Neff will continue his work throughout the next year as the transition and grant manager.
To plan your own tour, visit the Key West Historic Marker Tour website at KWHMT.org, download the free Key West Historic Marker Tour phone app at keywest.oncell.com, or call 305-507-0300 for a free Key West “Voices of History” phone tour. For more information, contact curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D., at 305-295-6616 x112.
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