For 15 years, the family and friends of Irving Eyster have been working on a museum to honor his work and primarily, to house the thousands of artifacts he’s collected over the course of his 70-some odd years in the Florida Keys.
The crews of Native Construction and Overholt have been working feverishly to erect the facility located adjacent to The Islander Resort in Islamorada.
This Sunday, the public is invited to preview the building’s progress for the first time since the groundbreaking that drew crowds of well over 400 people.
“Every time Daddy speaks, the event is full,” said Barbara Edgar, Eyster’s daughter who fondly remembers growing up on Lower Matecumbe when there were no gates or walls. “You walked through your neighbor’s yard to get to the other side of the island! Things are still wonderful, but they sure are different now.”
A majority of the artifacts to be showcased will focus on islands around which Eyster spent the majority of his life, but their first settlement along the island chain was in Key West.
Eyster and his wife were pilots from Indiana on a trip to Miami when they opted to take a day-trip to check out the Keys. In the early 40s, they purchased property in Key West and eventually made the permanent move. Within a few years, Eyster asked his wife to move back farther east along the island chain as “Key West was getting too crowded,” Edgar described of her father.
The 15,000-sq. ft. Irving R. Eyster Museum of Florida Keys History and Conference Center will house almost 7,000 sq. ft. of museum exhibition space on two fully accessible floors. These spaces have been designed and furnished with a huge emphasis on an accurate recreation of Florida Keys history. Even the two-story tall grand entry includes a detailed map mural of the entire Florida Keys area. Museum exhibits will progress from an explanation of the geological formation of the Keys through Indian explorers, Spanish conquistadors, pirates, ship wreckers, settlers and founding families as well as historical data on hurricanes, railroads and fishing legends.
The 56-seat “Eye of the Storm Theatre” will be the entertainment centerpiece of the museum.
The facility is conveniently located next to the Islander Resort, thus the 4,000-square foot conference center with three large meeting rooms, pre-function space, conference and reading room as well as a full-service banquet kitchen will be an asset for the property and the community.
“Mr. Curry is leasing this space to the foundation for $1 per year, and we were also approved last week for a $378,000 matching grant from the TDC,” Edgar continued. “We’re going to be charged with raising that match.”
The exterior of the building has been designed to reflect the true character of Florida Keys Architecture. A two-story traditional style building, along with a large two-story ocean-facing porch will give this building a relaxed inviting appeal.
Future functions can easily be taken right off of the porch and onto the lush garden area that will be fully accessible for weddings, receptions, outdoor meetings or just lounging at the end of the day by the ocean.
The Matecumbe Historical Trust will hold a preview of the Irving R. Eyster Historical Museum of the Florida Keys on Easter Sunday, April 8 immediately following Sunrise Service. The museum will be available for a tour and renderings of the exhibits will be on display from 7-9 am. Coffee and donuts will be served. The community is invited and encouraged to attend.
The Museum is located on the property adjacent to the Islander Resort located at 82100 Overseas Highway. For more information, call Barbara Edgar at (305) 393-0940.