Housing 36 bronze busts depicting important and notable figures in the history of Key West, the 4 by 2 mile island at the end of the Florida Keys, this sculpture garden is located on the original shoreline in bustling Mallory Square (the popular tourist area where people all go dusk to cheer the sunset).
Recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, the garden was championed by the Friends of Mallory Square and opened in September 1997 to celebrate the men and women who have had the greatest impact on Key West.
There are familiar faces and names immortalized here like fisherman/drinker/author Ernest Hemingway, former President Harry S. Trueman and railroad tycoon Henry M. Flagler, but a look at the others reveals the deep and often unknown history of the island. , which welcomes about 1 million visitors a year.
The busts were all created by the late sculptor James Mastin, who created his various project pieces originally in clay or wax before casting them in bronze, stainless steel, polyester resins or formed copper. His most impressive piece here is a large, evocative sculpture The Demolishers, which measures 18 feet long and 25 feet high, and captures the original spirit of Key West as the rough, frontier-ready sea town of a young America.
The first wreckers shown here – and they weren’t what we call “pirates”, as they were officially licensed (more or less) – are shown saving lives as well as the valuable (but often unknown) cargo of one of the many hundreds of ships that have been grounded, endangered or stranded on the many reefs.
The sinking made the island wealthy, and by the mid-1800s the town, per capita, was the wealthiest in America: salvage costs made wrecking captains, crews, businessmen, lawyers, clerks, packers, dockworkers and insurance agents, and many more. – rich indeed.
The park’s floor is largely made up of sponsored bricks, known as the Walkway of History, and you can spot famous names here, such as writer/director Hal Hartley, as well as many locals, visitors, and fans. of Key Largo and “island life”.