Skip to content

Florida Keys Memorial

Florida Keys Memorial
Florida Keys Memorial
Construction of the monument
Construction of the monument
More than 4,000 gathered
More than 4,000 gathered
Monument waiting to be unveiled
Monument waiting to be unveiled

The Florida Keys Memorial was constructed in 1937 to commemorate the victims of the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. The project was funded by President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the Miami-based Harvey W. Seeds Post of the American Legion who helped raise funds to build the iconic Islamorada landmark located on Upper Matecumbe Key. It can be found at approximately Mile Marker 82.

The 18-foot obelisk represents the approximate height of the tidal surge that swept across the area at approximately 8:25 p.m. on that fateful Labor Day. Artist John Klinkenberg inscribed the bronze plaque below the monument’s sculpture: "Dedicated To The Memory Of The Civilians And The War Veterans Whose Lives Were Lost In The Hurricane Of September Second 1935."

At the foot of the monument is a 22-foot long crypt that has been decorated with a mosaic tile design created by Adela Gisbet. Her artwork represents the span of islands from Key Largo to Vaca Key, the area impacted by the hurricane.

After construction of the memorial two years after the killer hurricane, ashes from victims were collected from more than a dozen cremation sites stretching from Lower Matecumbe to Plantation Key. The unveiling of the Florida Keys Memorial on November 14, 1937 was attended by as many as 4,000 people including state dignitaries and practically every mayor from Key West to Fort Lauderdale.

At 1 p.m., burial services were conducted by Chaplin E.R. Reedy of the Henry Seeds Post, American Legion. During the ceremony, a single coffin wrapped in an American flag was interred inside the crypt. The child-sized casket contained the remains of Herman Saulter, a WWI veteran from Philadelphia whose remains were identified because his official discharge papers had been found tucked inside his coat pocket.

November 14, 1937
November 14, 1937
Coffin containing remains <br/>of Herman Saulter
Coffin containing remains
of Herman Saulter