Key West Art & Historical Society Commemorates the Bahamian/Key West Connection

During the early 1800s, wrecking was a common occupation for Bahamian residents, and many plied their trade in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys. In 1825, however, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Wrecking Act, which stipulated that goods salvaged from any vessel wrecked in American waters must be brought to a U.S. port.

In the decades that followed, hundreds of Bahamians, including wreckers, boat builders and those in related professions from Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Abaco relocated to Key West. To this largely uninhabited island, they brought everything, up to and including their houses!    

The Bartlum House (which remains today at 730 Eaton Street, Key West) was one of a number of Green Turtle Cay homes which were taken apart, transported and reassembled on Key West during the mid-1800s. Original oil painting by Alton Lowe.

By 1860, two-thirds of Key West’s 3,000 residents were of Bahamian descent, and their heritage was reflected in the island’s architecture, industry, culture and cuisine.

To commemorate and explore the historical and contemporary connections between the Bahamas and Key West, the Key West Art and Historical Society is currently staging an exhibit entitled The Key West/Bahamas Connection in the Bryan Gallery at the Custom House Museum (281 Front Street, Key West.)

This multidisciplinary installation, which focuses on food, music, dance, architecture and industry opened January 18th with a celebration of all things Bahamian. Traditional Bahamian fare — including conch fritters, conch salad, plantains and peas and rice — was served, and guests were treated to a spirited performance by the the Key West Graveyard Junkanoo group.

The Key West Graveyard Junkanoo group performs at the opening night of The Key West/Bahamas Connection. (Video courtesy of the Key West Art and Historical Society)

The Key West/Bahamas Connection exhibit runs until April 7, 2019. Your $12 admission ($5 for children 6 and up, children under 6 are free) allows access not just to this exhibit, but to the entire museum.

  9 comments for “Key West Art & Historical Society Commemorates the Bahamian/Key West Connection

  1. Angela Moser Ogle
    January 28, 2019 at 9:42 am

    This is interesting
    I am one of many of Thomas Lowe’s great granddaughters It is fun to learn things about the Keys Eva Lowe Dixon (deceased) is my grandmother

  2. Elizabeth
    January 29, 2019 at 8:32 am

    For Monroe County residents the admission is usually waived the first Sunday of the month.

  3. John H. Smith
    February 26, 2019 at 4:38 am

    Hello!,,,I Am The Grandson Of Miami’s Fl.’s ‘Pioneer-Family’ Member: Rev. Alexander Allen, Who Was The Brother Of Key West Fl. ‘Pioneer-Allen’ Siblings; James, Mary And Rev. George Allen, Who Migrated In The 1870’s From Tarpum Bay, Eleuthrea, Bahamas To South Florida And Key West, Whilst The Eldest And Youngest Allen Siblings,William W. And Susan Allen Remained In The Bahamas!
    The Allen Progenies Currently Include Such Luminaries As The Recent Two-Term Bahamian Prime Minister: The Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, Key West Attorney: Calvin Allen, Former Key West Commissioner: Carmen Turner, Key West Native And Current Minnesota Politician: Donzel (Rudy) Leggett, Miami ‘Heats’ Pro. Player: Udonis Haslem, Washington DC’s ‘ABC-TV’ Anchor: Carl Willis; Along With ‘Many Dozens’ Of Other Young Professionals Of ‘Color’ Prominent In The Fields Of Medicine, Science, Law, Education, Administration, Religion, Politics And The Arts Both Here In The ‘States’, And Of Course In The ‘Bahamas’, And Abroad!,,,
    We ‘American Allen’s’ Proudly Proclaim Our ‘Bahamian’ Roots During Our “Allen Family Reunions” That Have Reached Attendance’s As High As ‘525’ Family Members! (Key West 1997) Our Huge Family Gatherings Are Usually Held Biennially (Every Two Years) Here In The ‘States'{Key West, Miami, Orlando}-(I Coordinated One W/426 Members Here In Daytona Beach!), And Of Course In Our, ‘Ancestral’ Home Of The ‘Bahamas’! (“Today More Than 800 ‘Allen’ Descendants Are Citizens Of America, The Bahamas And The World!”-Carmen Turner, Key West,Fl.)
    I Thoroughly Enjoyed Reviewing Your Recent Historical Article Concerning Our, “Bahamian/Key West Connection”!
    Blessings,~John ‘Jay’ H Smith.

    • February 26, 2019 at 9:00 am

      Hi, Jay. Wow – 525 people at a family reunion! That’s amazing. Thanks so much for your note, and please keep me posted about future reunions. In the meantime, I’m going to share your post above with the members of the Bahamas Genealogy Group (, since some of them may share ancestry with you. Thanks again!


      • John 'Jay' H. Smith
        February 27, 2019 at 1:50 pm

        Hello Amanda! You’re More Than Welcome! BTW, ‘Great Concept’! 😎,,,Also, Do You Have A ‘Facebook’ Following Or Group? Blessings, John ‘Jay’.

    • Charles Carey
      February 26, 2019 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks, Cousin!

      • John 'Jay' H. Smith
        February 27, 2019 at 1:59 pm

        Hello Cousin Charles!,,, It Was A ‘Proud Pleasure’! Hope To See You Guys Again Soon In The Bahamas! Blessings, Cousin Jay.

  4. John 'Jay' H. Smith
    February 27, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Hello Amanda! You’re More Than Welcome! BTW, ‘Great Concept’! 😎,,,Also, Do You Have A ‘Facebook’ Following Or Group? Blessings, John ‘Jay’.

    • February 27, 2019 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks! Yes, please check out my Facebook page, Little House by the Ferry/Amanda Diedrick.


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