Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pigeon Key Poster to Aid Restoration of Old Seven

PIGEON KEY, Florida Keys  – In the early 1900′s , visionary entrepreneur and developer Henry Flagler, the “Father of Florida”,  fulfilled his extraordinary goal to build an Overseas Railroad to connect Miami to Key West.  The remarkable series of bridges (now 42 in all ) spanned 110 miles,  linking island to island to create the Florida Keys and carried cargo and passengers along the way until 1935,  when an unexpected, Category 5 Hurricane destroyed the portion that serviced the Tavernier/Islamorada area.  One of the crown jewels in this chain was the “Seven Mile Bridge”,  linking Marathon (Mile Marker 50)  to Little Duck Key, better known today as Veterans Park.

The railroad bridges were converted into an automotive Overseas Highway, thanks to the State of  Florida who bought the entire “Flagler- right of way”.  Steel girders, braces and poured concrete were engineered to convert each bridge into a two lane highway, completed in 1938.  A toll was charged, to pay off the debt to the state.  Managed by the Overseas Road and Toll Bridge District, the debt was paid off in less than 5 years. Pigeon Key, nestled under the Old 7 Mile and owned by Monroe County, remained headquarters for the workers who maintained the bridges until it was leased to the University of Miami for Marine Biology Studies. Today, the island, including its renowned Flagler Railroad Museum, managed and operated by the Pigeon Key Foundation (PKF), a non-profit 501 (c) 3 corporation on behalf of Monroe County. The Pigeon Key Foundation currently runs a number of valuable educational and community-oriented program.

The new Seven Mile Bridge was opened in 1982, leaving the old portion to Pigeon Key open for walking and bicycle traffic, as well as for limited vehicular traffic to and from the island.

For the last 30 years, the original 7 Mile Bridge has been a popular 2 mile recreational span on which hundreds of people walk and bike,  enjoying ocean breezes, spectacular views and photograph gorgeous sunsets.  Over one hundred thousand people per year use the bridge as they enjoy an open-air-aquarium where baby sharks, tropical fish, barracuda, rays and tarpon swim through its historic century old pilings, span after span.

But this historic landmark to Pigeon Key is crumbling and without a massive overhaul, doomed to be condemned and closed. Due to deteriorating structural conditions, FDOT restricted vehicular traffic from the bridge, allowing only pedestrians, joggers and bikes.

The Old Seven Mile Bridge has been integral part of Pigeon Key’s character and history for a century, and such an action would be catastrophic to the island’s residents, marine biology students, visitors, and the tourism economy.

The Florida Department of Transportation has pledged to cover half of the $18-22 million cost of returning the original Seven Mile Bridge to structural integrity, with the other half to come from outside sources.  The volunteer grassroots organization, Friends of Old Seven ( FO7 ), has stepped up to save this important, public treasure .

As part of the fund raising efforts, the FO7 Board of Directors commissioned Beach Town Posters  artist, Aurelio Grisanty,  to create a Retro Art Deco travel poster celebrating Pigeon Key.  This poster, which features The “Old Seven” and Pigeon Key’s Historic Architecture , will be sold to raise money for the bridge reconstruction.

FO7 Board Member Bettye Chaplin explained that Beach Town Posters was a natural fit for the dual purposes for FO7: to educate and inspire people about Pigeon Key, and to celebrate its history.  Beach Town Posters is a series of original art travel posters, designed by Grisanty, that feature beloved classic American beach towns and islands.

“We wanted a beautiful, appealing, high quality item that would constantly remind people of the wonderful times they spent on Pigeon Key, the ‘tiny island with a big history.” Chaplin says.  “ Beach Town Posters has an international following due to their stylish aesthetic and historical reverence.  We are excited to have them design a Pigeon Key Poster.”

The Pigeon Key Art Poster will be sold in the Pigeon Key Museum Shop, selected art galleries and gift shops, at “Friends of Old 7″ fund raising events, and online at https://friendsofoldseven.org/index.php/shop/.