History program to focus on Krome

The William J. Krome home and P.L. Wilson home around 1912 in Islamorada, on the bay shore at the end of DeLeon Avenue. They were destroyed in the 1935 hurricane.
The William J. Krome home and P.L. Wilson home around 1912 in Islamorada, on the bay shore at the end of DeLeon Avenue. They were destroyed in the 1935 hurricane.

In the 1990s, my wife Mary Lou and I met Bill and Phoebe Krome through her sister, Meg Mabbs of Plantation Key. Many meetings took place afterwards, one being the making of an interview on Feb. 28, 1997 at their home in Homestead.

By 1997 I had educated myself with many visits to their house and going through their library of collections of Bill’s father, William J. Krome, the Florida East Coast Railroad construction engineer. This information will be presented at the May 9 meeting of the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys.

The program will begin at 7 p.m. in the Key Largo Library’s community room at mile marker 101.5 in the Tradewinds Shopping Plaza. The public is invited, refreshments will be provided and admission is free.

It will cover a series of subjects including his comments on various photographs. Two discussion items that are specifically related to the Upper Keys are, first, that William J. Krome, the father, subdivided and developed the subdivision Townsite of Islamorada, on which he built its first house and, secondly, two cottages built by P.L. Wilson for rental and lime groves on 4.5 acres of Plantation Key oceanfront property.

Engineer Krome was the only male of seven children and his sister, Clara, had married P.L. Wilson, one of Krome’s engineers. The Hurricane of 1935 floated the two cottages, one across the highway and one near the highway.

Another Krome sister, Mary, had married a doctor, Fred Jones, who bought the cottages after the hurricane, as the Wilson’s had no further use for them. Mary and Dr. Jones combined them as one house, elevating them sufficiently for a basement.

When Dr. Jones died, Mary Krome Jones continued to live in the house until she became incapacitated. At that time, Bill Krome purchased the house and relates the entire sequence in the interview. One comment that Bill made was that P.L. Wilson could build houses well as they floated and survived in the 1935 Hurricane, and hurricanes Donna and Betsy.

I will add that P.L. Wilson built another house in Islamorada that survived the 1935 Hurricane.

The combined house became known as the “Mary Krome Jones house,” where she lived after the death of her husband. It was sold around 1989, and again in 1994. The acreage was split up, the house torn down and replaced by a new modern house around 2002.

In an interview to be shown at the presentation, Bill Krome states that Phil (P.L. Wilson) built really strong houses that both survived the 1935 hurricane. True, but another house built by Wilson also survived the 1935 hurricane. It’s located behind Tiny’s Mobile gas station, mile marker 82.9, bayside. These three are the only known residences to survive the 1935 Hurricane in Islamorada — the Matecumbe Methodist parsonage also survived, but was burned. The remains of the two houses on Plantation Key were torn down. Therefore, the Islamorada DeLeon property is the sole surviving residence.

Lilly Lawrence Bow was discovered by Krome abandoned by her husband and living with her two children on Cudjoe Key circa 1905, and he moved them to Homestead before railroad construction crews arrived. Bow Channel, south of Cudjoe Key, is named after her.

Her son, Lawrence Bow Jr., worked himself up the chain of command for the railroad and served as the chief engineer for the World War I veterans highway project in 1934-35 for the state of Florida.