CRANE POINT LEAPS FORWARD WITH MORE EVENT SPACE & OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

two women standing next to each other in front of a sign
Crane Point CEO Charlotte Quinn, right, and Marathon Wild Bird Center veterinarian Dr. Geraldine Deithelm show off the new entrance to the Marathon Wild Bird Center. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

As one of only 47 sites on the National Register of Historic Places in Florida, Crane Point Hammock and Nature Center offers more than just history. Long known for its outdoor walking, kayaking and snorkeling adventures, the sprawling preserve is beginning to become a hub for events in the Middle Keys.

Crane Point is an undisputed ecological and cultural gem. Its lush tropical forest hammocks shelter rare and endangered species alongside archaeological and historical treasures. The diverse ecosystems within its 63 acres include a large thatch palm hammock, a hardwood hammock, a mangrove forest, tidal lagoons and wetland ponds, with each habitat providing a haven for a variety of wildlife. 

As of late, however, the hammock has offered its patrons a bit more than just nature.

“We have four areas that have been designated as event spaces,” said Crane Point CEO Charlotte Quinn. “The center of our property has just been completed and there’s a beautiful fire pit there as well. With separate event spaces, Crane Point can accommodate a variety of functions, which is ideal for large corporate events or weddings.”

Of the four designated areas, the first area is known as the Crane House. It pays homage to Francis and Mary Crane, the property’s conservationist owners prior to the 1970s. Steeped in history, the recently-remodeled home showcases the legacy of the Crane family. Original ceiling decorations pay tribute to their Great Pyrenees dogs, rescued during World War II and brought to America before becoming the breed’s founding bloodline in the U.S. Additionally, re-created indigenous artifacts reflect the couple’s passion for collecting and preserving cultural heritage. Although all of Crane Point’s spaces have natural breezes, this is the only event space that offers an upstairs, air-conditioned option. 

Relocated to the front of the property with spacious, brand new enclosures and an enhanced hospital space surrounded by a tropical oasis, the Marathon Wild Bird Center is an even more accessible attraction drawing visitors to Crane Point. JEN ALEXANDER/Keys Weekly

Nestled within the lush hammock is the Adderley House. Originally built in 1904, it’s a captivating example of Bahamian architecture and is the oldest surviving house in the Florida Keys beyond Key West. The Adderley House boasts a practical layout, measuring 30 feet by 21 feet. Its rectangular shape is punctuated by centered doors at the front and back, allowing for a cool breeze to flow through the eight windows. This seemingly simple structure also holds another historical significance: It’s the only remaining building in Florida constructed using the unique “tabby” method. This technique involved burning oyster shells to create lime, which was then combined with water, sand, ash and the leftover shell fragments to form a strong concrete-like substance.

The third event space offered is the museum and accompanying courtyard area. While visiting, patrons may uncover the fascinating story of the Florida Keys at the museum and explore exhibits showcasing the area’s natural wonders and rich history. Learning about the Calusa Indians, the first inhabitants, visitors can understand how Spanish explorers and pioneers left their mark and discover tales of pirates who once roamed the waters of the Keys. The outside accompanying courtyard has a diorama replicating a vibrant coral reef teeming with life. Butterflies, colorful tree snails, artwork and land tortoises also surround the area. 

Finally, made possible by the Marathon Wild Bird Center’s move to impressive new digs near the front of the property, Crane Point has a centrally-located area that has been recently cleared and is now available. As the largest of the center’s four event spaces, this expansive area in the heart of the property boasts ample room for large gatherings. Tents and canopies of twinkling lights may be used along with the surrounding vicinity of newly planted gardens, flourishing trees and finished walking paths.

Crane Point CEO Charlotte Quinn, right, and Marathon Wild Bird Center veterinarian Dr. Geraldine Diethelm sneak in a photo op with Rita, the center’s resident bald eagle. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

“Each event space is different, and each has its own natural beauty,” said Quinn. “We are continuing to enhance the event area with beautiful gardens and amenities all the time.”

Besides the abundant event options, there are many nature offerings and ways to gaze at local wildlife at Crane Point. Another recently-renovated area is the Wild Bird Center. For more than 25 years, the Middle Keys rescue hospital has served as a beacon of hope for injured wildlife. Under founder and director Kelly Grinter, a dedicated team of volunteers has a remarkable record of success, rehabilitating and releasing more than 16,000 wild birds back into their natural habitat. Recognized throughout the region, the team has an unwavering commitment to caring for Monroe County’s avian population.

“Come see our bald eagle, Rita,” said Quinn. “She is the only bald eagle in the entire Florida Keys. Our newly upgraded bird sanctuary is just gorgeous.”

More information is at cranepoint.net, marathonwildbirdcenter.org or 305-783-7551.

Jen Alexander
Jen Alexander is a teacher and volleyball coach at Sugarloaf School. She is a lover of travel, adventure, action, home improvement and family. A self-proclaimed "master of none," she is a doer of all and partaker of anything fun and exciting.