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What we today call the Seven Mile Bridge , was actually composed of  Knight's Key, Pigeon Key, Moser Channel, Pacet Channel bridges. The total length was 35,815 feet long and consisted of 335 steel girder 80-foot spans, 9,000 feet of concrete arch viaduct, and a 253-foot swing truss drawbridge span. The steel truss bridge portion rested on 546 concrete piers set securely into bedrock, and was installed by the Terry and Tench Company of New York. The Pigeon Key portion was originally scheduled to be a filled causeway. This was canceled. The Pacet Channel portion was of the concrete arch viaduct type, as the water was shallower. The overall bridge was sometimes referred to as the Flagler Viaduct. At that time it was not known as the Seven Mile Bridge, a name coined later. 

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The above photo is how Knight's Key Dock appeared in 1911 about two miles out in Moser Channel. Two trains could park side by side with sufficient space to service passengers and two steam ships docked alongside the complex. The end of the building was the hotel, post office, custom's service and office space. Most of the freight loading, unloading and storage were done at the far end. Henry Flagler began construction in early 1906 and daily train and ship passenger service began in February 1908.

The mini-city was located 1,300 feet perpendicular (south) of span No. 36 of the old Seven Mile Bridge (Flagler Viaduct). The seven-mile railroad bridge was high enough to pass over the Knight's Key wooden trestle by use of a temporary wooden span at span 36. On Jan. 21, 1912, the wooden span was replaced with a standard steel span and on Jan. 22, 1912, Henry Flager and his entourage traveled by train to Key West. Being inaccessible by train, the entire mini-city of Knight's Key Dock was then burned to the water line.

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The two-lane Overseas Highway extends over Pigeon Key toward Marathon in this 1951 photograph. At this time the tiny island was the center for the Road and Toll Bridge District. Under the leadership of Brooks Bateman, Pigeon Key was a showcase of older but well-maintained houses and work areas. This photograph was taken before the swimming pool (now boat basin) was built on the ocean side (right) and shows a dock extending to the south. Some of the houses in this photograph were demolished in later years.

Photo copyright Ed Swift Jr. in archives of Ed Swift III.

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Touted as "The world's longest fishing pier" the Seven-Mile Bridge completed in 1938 was a magnet for hook-and-line fishermen who didn't have a boat. They drove to their spot, stopped their cars, unloaded their tackle, and wet their lines. There was very little traffic on the bridge, and fishermen often camped out all night. This is a 1952 view of the bridge.

Photo copyright Ed Swift Jr. in archives of Ed Swift III




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In March 1981 work was progressing well to bypass the original 1912 Flagler railroad bridge converted to a vehicle road bed in 1938 with a new 65-foot high segmental concrete box girder French designed Seven Mile Bridge.

The Moser Channel swing bridge at mile marker 44.1 was operated with two propane motors (one was a stand-by) in the framework above the bridge. Before Hurricane Donna in 1960, the operator lived in a cabin below the bridge on one of the fenders. The hurricane damaged the cabin and impatient drivers did not like waiting for the operator to climb from below to the small operator's room above; therefore, living quarters were built above.

On March 3, 1981, just 30 minutes after Peter Flancher of Big Pine Key reported on duty, a horrific accident happened. The steel boom of a backhoe being towed by a Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority truck struck the 1,000-gallon propane tank suspended below the cabin's floor. The cabin was immediately engulfed in flames, taking the life of the bridge tender. The bridge closed for more than a day,isolating the Lower Keys. It was reopened and was used until 1982, but the swingspan never rotated again.

Sophisticated rescue boats from the adjacent Misener construction crews were helpless to render aid. A plaque memorializing Peter Charles Fancher is attached to the Marathon end of the bridge.


 

View from Little Duck Key
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Pacet Channel Viaduct spandrell arches

Construction on this portion of the Seven Mile Bridge began in August of 1910 and was finished in November of 1911. This type of construction was used because of the shallow waters. 

Plague at the south end of the bridge
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The original bridge is on the left and the new one is on the right

Travel over the new 7 Mile Bridge as we head on down to Key West listening to the sounds of the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett.

Associated Press

Published Sunday, October 18, 2009


KEY LARGO

The Overseas Highway, which stretches across the Florida Keys, is now an All-American Road.

Federal officials announced the designation Friday at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Completed in 1938, the Overseas Highway incorporates 42 bridges over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It's the highest recognition possible under the National Scenic Byways program.

Three other Florida roads were recognized as new National Scenic Byways, including the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway in the north-central region, the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail near Ormond Beach and the Big Bend Scenic Byway in the Panhandle.

Only 30 other U.S. roadways have earned the prestigious title. Keys officials expect the accolade will lead to increased tourism and additional highway funding.

"The All-American Road designation will bring status to us with international and domestic visitors, so that they know driving U.S. 1 from Key Largo to Key West is a one-of-a-kind driving experience," said Judy Hull, who was in Washington for the ceremony. Hull is president of the Florida Keys Scenic Corridor Alliance that spearheaded a multiyear effort to achieve the distinction.

"It should help us with tourism and future highway grant funding."

The Overseas Highway follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 when Standard Oil millionaire Henry Flagler completed the extension of his Florida East Coast Railroad from Miami to Key West. Construction of the highway began after the railroad ceased following a 1935 hurricane.

In 1982, 37 of the original bridges, including the Seven Mile Bridge, were replaced with wider spans. Most of the historic bridges still stand alongside the newer ones and serve as fishing piers for anglers.

Along with the Overseas Highway, officials announced four other All-American Roads. They are Historic Route 66 in Arizona, Maine's Acadia All-American Road Trenton Extension, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in Maryland and Michigan's Woodward Avenue (M-1) Automotive Heritage Trail.

Early photos and captions by Dan Gallagher

Some of This Material is From the
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