Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Old Bahia Honda Bridge

Bahia Honda Key, Florida

Bahia Honda Key is one of the best preserved keys in the chain of Islands leading 110 miles to Key West, 90 miles from Cuba. The large key is now a State park with miles of white sand beaches and camping facilities. Bahia Honda starts at mile marker 50 just below the Seven Mile bridge leading south from Marathon Key toward Key West.




Billionaire Henry Flagler was a partner in Standard Oil with John D. Rockerfeller. After a visit to Saint Augustine he became interested in developing the west coast of Florida and built a railroad to Miami and a string of magnificent hotels, including the "Breakers" in Palm Beach.



His least successful commercial venture was the overseas railroad from Miami to Key West. This was a stupendous labor and engineering challenge and included the seven-mile bridge below Marathon Key as well as the mile long Bahia Honda bridge.


The workers who built the bridge battled sand fleas, mosquitoes and hurricanes. Thousands of them were killed in the storms that periodically swept the Keys during the construction period from 1905 to 1912.



Flagler's bridges and pilings, now unused, still stand and appear as solid as the Pyramids. I have snorkled for, and eaten, Florida lobsters that live beneath the old arched pilings and the sturdy oval pilings used on the various bridges that extend for miles between the various keys.



On Labor Day, in 1935, one of the strongest hurricanes on record severed a number of the bridges and killed hundreds of WWI veterans working on a WPA bridge project. The bodies were lodged in mangrove roots and spoiled quickly in the tropical heat. The bodies, in wooden coffins, were ordered stacked and burned. An evacuation train, which backed down from Homestead to make a quick getaway was washed away. Ernest Hemingway wrote a scathing condemnation of the government at the time. He wondered who killed the veterans and left them exposed in flimsy barracks. The overseas railroad came to an end. It is interesting to see that four of the ten most powerful hurricanes of thee last hundred years have occured within the last three hurricane seasons. Could it be global warming?



Most intense Atlantic hurricanes: Intensity is measured solely by central pressure
Rank Hurricane Season Min. pressure
1 Wilma 2005 882 mbar
2 Gilbert 1988 888 mbar
3 "Labor Day" 1935 892 mbar
4 Rita 2005 895 mbar
5 Allen 1980 899 mbar
6 Katrina 2005 902 mbar
7 Camille 1969 905 mbar
8 Mitch 1998 905 mbar
9 Ivan 2004 910 mbar
10 Janet 1955 914 mbar



The Bahia Honda section of the railroad bridge had a rickety two lane highway built over its top. That section of the highway to Key West opened for traffic in 1938 and lasted until a more modern bridge was finished in 1972. I've driven over the old bridge many times, but now it's just nostalgia and a photo op. 



3 comments:

  1. Excellent blog Bob. I've been visiting the Florida Keys since 93, and Bahia Honda State Park is my favorite place to visit. With the bridge being why. The view from the top is magnificent. And the history. All the best.

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  2. Take a look.

    http://www.legendsystems.eu/green-architecture/bahia-honda-bridge-florida/

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  3. I remember when I was a kid living in Keywest and crossing over that bridge by car.

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