A tiny Florida beach town is rebuilding after a hurricane. Is it becoming a preserve of the rich?
After Hurricane Irma ravaged southeast Florida last year, some locals realized that their small beach town could benefit from being a bit more conservative in its attitude toward development. That may be one of the reasons the town of Long Key, Florida, was one of the first in the state to be designated as a “historic district” under a state law that protects places like Long Key from urban development. Now, just a few years later, the town is getting a second chance.
“It has come full circle,” says Long Key State Park Manager Steve Stegman.
The town is being touted as a possible home for what activists consider an important piece in the nation’s struggle to create a sustainable urban environment: the preservation of historic homes. As the beach town slowly rebuilds from last fall’s Category 4 hurricane hurricane, it’s poised to be a key destination for preservationists, and one that others can follow.
The beach town is located in the Intracoastal Waterway, east of Jacksonville, Florida, and south of the Everglades National Park. Long Key has been a busy commercial center for most of its history. When it was founded in 1936, it was known as “The Little Queen Key,” an allusion to Long Key Beach, near Coney Island.
Atop a ridge, Long Key has a number of historic cottages, including some that are being restored for their new life as historic homes. (Photo: Long Key State Park)
The state park is home to the Long Key Historic Preservation District, which is comprised of five blocks of cottages that date from the 1920s right up to the present day. Each of the houses has been individually restored from its original state, and the district contains four cottages that are not as well preserved.
Stegman says the plan is to restore the beachfront cottages to their former glory.
“We want to restore the beach, and make it as much like what it was when it was built, as possible,” Stegman says.
As you drive up the steep hill, there’s a small park on its crest, with a sign that reads “History Museum to the East.” From there, you follow a winding drive on the east side of the Long Key peninsula, where many houses