Little Palm Island was once nothing more than a Fish Camp in the Florida Keys
To look at Little Palm Island now it’s difficult to imagine it had such humble beginnings. This nine-acre island and its sister islands didn’t even have names until around 1849 where maps show them being called the Newfound Harbor Keys.
Charles and Ada Munson road the Henry Flagler Railroad to the Florida Keys in 1923, this was the year they purchased the four small islands known as the Newfound Harbor Keys. It didn’t take long for them to change the names of the islands. They named them Little Munson Island, Big Munson Island, Carrier Island and Cook’s Island.
They were tired of the cold winters in Connecticut. They had a building placed on a barge at Camp Johnson near Jacksonville. It made the trip all the way to the Florida keys. This would provide them with a temporary winter home. Many friends came to visit their island retreat. Percy Cook liked it so much he wanted an island of his own. The Munsons agreed to sell him the eastern most island, that’s how it got the name Cook’s Island. The Munsons had little interest in the other two islands so he gave his secretary, Ruth Ellison, Big Munson Island.
The Munsons had a five-room house and a cistern built on Little Munson Island (Little Palm Island). This would be their new winter home.
In 1924 Charles Munson passed away. His wife Ada no longer had an interest in the islands. She gave them to their secretary Ruth Ellison. She ran it as a fish camp, but soon grew tired of that.
Little Palm Island was sold again in 1936 to Samuel Anderson. He changed the name to Anderson’s Island. He made improvements to the island. A caretaker was hired to live on the island all year round. They built themselves a house and lived there for 16 years.
Samuel Anderson wanted to build a hurricane proof house. He felt the need after seeing all the destruction caused by the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane. He decided to model his house after the Red Cross houses built by FEMA in the Upper Keys. These houses were made of concrete and they were built on top of a concrete cistern. The walls were twelve inches thick. A fifteen by twenty-five-foot cistern was dug to build the two room house on. For construction materials they hauled 300 bags of portland cement and 450 barrels of ballast stones from the devastated Flagler Railroad tracks.
Fifteen years later Sam Anderson passed away and Little Palm Island was sold to John Spottswood of Key West. Spottswood renovated the island. It soon became a get away place for important people such as President Harry Truman and Governor George Wallace. The island was soon getting lots of press and attention when the movie “PT-109" was filmed there in 1962. The movie was about John F. Kennedy reporting for duty in the Solomon Islands in 1943. John Spottswood and the local Monroe County Sheriff played the part of Skippers of the PT-109 vessel.
There’s a shady side to everything in the Florida Keys. This is Little Palm’s contribution. Charles and Alexis Kelm and a silent partner purchased Little Munson Island in 1982 for 1.25 Million dollars. In January 1983 Charles and Alexis Kelm were arrested in a drug sting raid. The Florida State Attorney wanted to seize the island. They accused the Kelms of using drug money in the purchase of the island. The States Attorney was unable to seize it due to the innocent silent partner.
In 1987 the island sold again to Ben and Lucy Woodson. They were looking for a location to create an ecologically minded tropical resort on a small offshore island. Plans were approved and construction began in 1988. It soon opened as Little Palm Island Beach Club.
In 1998 Hurricane Georges blasted thru the Lower Keys and Key West. It caused 10 Million dollars worth of damage to the landscaping, bungalows, restaurant, pool, shop and beach. But the island resort quickly recovered.
It was sold again to Noblehouse Inc., and they own it today.
In 2005 Hurricane Wilma caused considerable damage to the island resort. This time a large section of the dock had to be replaced. Once again the island resort quickly recovered.
Accommodations on the island are twenty eight-one bedroom thatched roof bungalows and two larger suits. Some of these even have a private outdoor shower. All bungalows have a veranda overlooking the ocean. However there are no telephones, televisions or alarm clocks, and you’re encouraged to leave your cell phone and computers at the shore base until you’re departing to rejoin the real world.
There are also accommodations for yachts up to 120 feet. You’re allowed one gallon of water per foot of vessel per day. electrical hook ups are also available.
The public is welcome to dine at the restaurant. Reservations are a must. You can take your own boat or catch a ride in their launch. The ride takes about ten minutes from the shore base. The shore base is located on Little Torch Key at MM 28.5.
After you've visited Little Palm Island you may be inspired to turn your backyard into a tropical island setting. A good place to start is to build yourself a Tiki Hut and Tiki Bar. Then you can throw a Polynesian Island Party and invite all your friends. Now we're having fun!
Little Palm Island is the most beautiful resort in the Florida Keys and it’s only ten minutes from my house by boat.
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