Where better to discover the history of fascinating Key West than in the final resting place of its many notable figures? It is estimated that Key West Cemetery is home to more than 100,000 grave sites, more than three times the city’s population. Wander around the 19-acre (8-hectare) site to come across colorful local characters who helped define Key West over the past two centuries. The well-maintained cemetery provides a tranquil escape from the busy town center. At the base of Solares Hill, the cemetery has great views and is home to local birds and iguanas.
Pick up a booklet from the entrance for background information on the cemetery and the people buried within it. The current cemetery was constructed in 1847 after a hurricane washed away many of the bodies from the original site. Follow the map on the reverse side of the booklet to be led to some of the most fascinating graves.
Visit the final resting place of Sloppy Joe Russell, a much-loved barkeeper. Take a photograph of the comical final words of Betty Pearl Roberts, a notorious hypochondriac from the area: “I told you I was sick.” At the U.S.S. Maine Monument, pay your respects to the 260 American soldiers who died when their ship sank in 1898, triggering the Spanish-American War.
The cemetery is filled with local flowers, both in the flower beds and as bouquets on the grave stones. Walk along boulevards lined by purple bougainvillea, past elaborate fences and between gumbo trees to reach the Jewish Cemetery, marked by a black archway. The graves within the cemetery date back to the 1890s and are one of the most interesting parts of the Key West Cemetery.
The Key West Cemetery is located on the edge of the town center, at the base of Solares Hill. It can easily be reached by bike or on foot. Free parking is available outside the entrance for those arriving by car. Cemetery entrance is free and it can be visited daily.