The Brilliant Life of David Wolkowsky - Jimmy Buffett et al. posing for the camera - David Wolkowsky
Musician Jimmy Buffett and David Wolkowsky. KEY WEST LITERARY SEMINAR

1919  August 25 David Wolkowsky is born in Key West.

1919  September 2The Florida Keys Hurricane hits, killing 772 people.

1923  The Great Depression hits Key West, and the Wolkowsky family packs up and moves to Miami. David Wolkowsky later recalls eating Saltine crackers with guava jelly on the train ride.

1934  Key West is declared the Poorest City in Florida, only 40 years after being declared the Richest City in Florida.

1935  Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad is converted into the Overseas Highway.

1950s David Wolkowsky begins restoring the area around Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia under the name “David Williams” to avoid anti-Semitism. He is named “Man of the Month” by Town and Country.

David Wolkowsky and friend Sarah Benson at a party in 2012.NICK DOLL PHOTOGRAPHY

1962David Wolkowsky’s father dies. Wolkowskyinherits a number of “aging buildings” and returns to Key West, of which he says: “It was literally a village.”

1962 October 16 Key West plays a pivotal role in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

1963Wolkowsky begins his downtown renovations: the old Sloppy Joe’s on Green Street, now Captain Tony’s Saloon, as well as the Mallory Square area.

1968Wolkowsky’s Pier House resort opens for guests. The Miami Herald calls it “the turning point in Key West’s transformation from washed-up military outpost to funky tourist destination.”

1969 David Wolkowsky tells a Miami Herald reporter his mission in the Keys is to “preserve the past by making it work for the present at a profit.”

1971 Jimmy Buffett arrives in Key West and begins playing gigs at the Pier House’s Chart Room.

1974 David Wolkowsky buys Ballast Key, an undeveloped island 9 miles off Key West.

1975 Artist Mario Sanchez completes his iconic wood carving “Golden Era,” featuring historic Caroline Street and Wolkowsky’s grandfather’s store “Wolkowsky& Sons.”

Mid-late 1970s Tennessee Williams begins painting on Ballast Key.

1980The Mariel Boatlift brings 120,000 Cuban immigrants to the Florida Keys, seeking refuge from Castro’s regime.

1981 Tennessee Williams paints David Wolkowsky’s portrait, inscribing on the back “Dear David, you realize I wasn’t painting the physical you, but the spirit visible to me.”

1983February David Wolkowsky serves as pallbearer for Tennessee Williams’s funeral.

1985 Mel Fisher discovers the Spanish Galleon The Atocha and $450 million of treasure.

1986Wolkowsky friend Truman Capote’s unfinished novel “Answered Prayers,“composed largely at the Pier House, is published posthumously.

2005 The Keys survive the worst hurricane season in meteorological memory, including Category 5 storms Wilma and Katrina.

2018 August David Wolkowsky celebrates his 99th birthday. The Monroe County Commission votes to rename Ballast Key “David Wolkowsky Key,”

2018 September 23 David Wolkowsky dies at his home in Key West.


Friends remember David Wolkowsky:

Arlo Haskell: What I admired most about David was his sense of style — not just his eye for architecture, vintage cars, and straightforward, elegant clothes, but the way he moved through the world, who he was and how he dealt with people. He was funny and sly, and everything was off to one side a little bit. You couldn’t always be sure, right away, if he was joking or telling it straight, or even whether or not you’d heard him right (because no one talked like David), but you never forgot what he said.

Lynn Kaufelt: One of my favorite memories of David is receiving an enormous box (maybe 2 feet long) of Whitman’s chocolates for Valentines Day and seeing his big smile coming from his car when I looked out my door to see who it was from. What style.

Wolkowsky’s private island, Ballast Key, 9 miles off Key West. CHRISTINA OXENBERG

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