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This estate sale offers a close-up of the personal life of “Mr. Key West”

Keys millionaire’s personal property on sale

A three-day estate sale in Key West starts Friday, offering up hundreds of things - statues, art, books, furniture, a signature straw hats and a baby grand piano - owned by millionaire David Wolkowsky.
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A three-day estate sale in Key West starts Friday, offering up hundreds of things - statues, art, books, furniture, a signature straw hats and a baby grand piano - owned by millionaire David Wolkowsky.

For 10 bucks at the door, you may soon browse the collection of art, statues and assorted personal items Key West the millionaire developer David Wolkowsky owned throughout his 99 years.

You can even buy his Toshiba combination television/VCR for $45. A statue that depicts a pensive-looking monkey is going for $3,500.

The estate of Wolkowsky, who died in September and was known as “Mr. Key West,” is selling off hundreds of his possessions at a tag sale Friday through Sunday at 1014 Flagler Ave., his main residence although he owned an island off Key West.

Wolkowsky’s vision transformed the island from a city in decline into a colorful tourist destination that draws artists and writers. He renovated more buildings than he could remember, including the old Kress dime store building on Duval Street. He opened the Pier House hotel in 1968, which began to draw visitors from around the country, including author Truman Capote.

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David Wolkowsky on Ballast Key in photo taken for L’Uomo Vogue in 1994. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

“There’s a story with everything here,” said Sue Puskedra, a certified personal property appraiser — the only one in the Florida Keys, she says — whose company Susie’s Estates Key West — is running the sale.

“Some we’ll never know,” she said. “That’s what I like, the history. These aren’t things you can go find at Ikea. A lot of this stuff, you’ll never find again.”

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Kathy Matz, left, and Sue Puskedra, of Susie’s Estates Key West, work on arranging hundreds of items that David Wolkowsky owned. An estate sale is set for Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. all days, at 1014 Flagler Ave. in Key West.

For example, why is there a small pile of the paperback James Bond novel “License to Kill” novels on a counter inside the living room and adjoining kitchen?

Wolkowsky allowed the filmmakers to use Ballast Key, his own private island, as a location for the movie starring Timothy Dalton as Bond.

Monroe County commissioners last year gave their approval to a federal application to have Ballast Key named after Wolkowsky.

Many statues from Ballast Key are in the sale. Wolkowsky apparently loved depictions of animals, from a giraffe to an unneutered bull.

The sale is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday-Sunday, but Puskedra expects people to begin lining up outside hours before the start time. Click here to see an online inventory of the available items.

An art dealer from New York has shown interest. People are traveling from near and far, Puskedra said.

“A woman from California called,” Puskedra said. “A woman from Tampa, she’s renting a truck. There are 35 statues she’s interested in.”

Prices are on the items already. No bidding will take place.

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A monkey statue is priced at $3,500. Gwen Filosa FLKeysNews.com

“It’s not an auction,” Puskedra said to a prospective customer on the phone while fielding calls during an interview Wednesday. “It’s a tag sale. Everything is marked.”

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David Wolkowsky, 98, at the Monroe County Commission meeting on Aug. 15, 2018, when the commission voted to name Ballast Key after him. Gwen Filosa FLKeysNews.com

Wolkowsky had no children but he had heirs, Puskedra said. Many of his pieces went to a museum in New York and some were donated to the Custom House Museum in Key West.

“We have the rest,” she said.

Kathy Matz, who works for Puskedra, marveled at the varied collection Wolkowsky owned — now spread out across the pool area, living room and guest house.

“Every time you come you see something new,” Matz said. “He had a good sense of humor, which we like.”

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.

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