A new pictorial history of Marathon and the Middle Keys traces the community’s growth from the earliest known settlers, through its Overseas Railroad era and the wrath of Hurricane Donna.
Then there are the oddball Keys events, like the plight of an unfortunate whale shark paraded through town and Mitzi the dolphin who became a movie star.
“Marathon: The Middle Keys,” authored by Laura Albritton and Jerry Wilkinson, will be released Monday as part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series.
The 128-page volume features 157 archival photos, described in depth, along with a general history focusing on the Middle Keys. A companion “Postcards of America” book sold separately contains 15 postcard-size prints of the Marathon area.
Other books have been written about Marathon, including those by the late Dan Gallagher, Wilkinson said.
“This is more of a photographic overview, from the early settlers to relatively contemporary times,” said Wilkinson, a Florida Keys chronicler and founder of the Historic Preservation Society of the Upper Keys.
“Books like this help give people an idea of where the place they live, or like to visit, came from,” Wilkinson said. “It’s a kind of cultural DNA — looking back so you can make tomorrow better.”
The format and scope of the $24.99 hardback book is matched by Images of America volumes written by Brad Bertelli and Wilkinson on “Islamorada” (2014) and “Key Largo” (2012).
“Key West” (2000) by Lynn M. Homan and Thomas Reilly also was part of the Images of America series with hundreds of titles. “We feel every place has the right to get their history out there,” Arcadia spokesman Jonny Foster said.
Albritton, a South Florida native and book author, was researching the history of Coconut Grove when she discovered that three founders of that Miami-Dade County community had moved north from the Middle Keys.
“That was in the 1830s, which is practically the Middle Ages for Florida,” Albritton said. “So I started digging. There were people in the Middle Keys who voted in 1836.”
“I knew about the railroad history, but my gosh, I had no idea there was all this other interesting material,” she said. “There was so much more we could have put in, but we had some limitations and we tried to cover the different eras. It was a fascinating process.”
Tom Hambright, the Monroe County Public Library historian, wrote the book’s forward and credits longtime Middle Keys photographers Ed Swift Jr. and the late Charlie Anderson for their many photographs.
“The unsung hero of Middle Keys history is Erma Stout, who after Hurricane Donna in 1960 gathered her neighbors at her restaurant to exchange history and photographs that survived the storm,” Hambright writes.
A public presentation and author book-signing is planned for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Marathon library. “Marathon: The Middle Keys” is expected to be available available at several local bookstores and museums and online.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206