Lonely Planet Writer

Florida Key West’s Southernmost Point landmark is now fully restored after hurricane damage

After damage caused by Hurricane Irma, Florida’s recognisable red and black landmark, resembling a marine buoy, has been fully refurbished and repainted ready for visitors wanting to take an iconic selfie, and the landmark has never looked better.

Artist Danny Acosta completes lettering the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. marker. Image by Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO

“It’s one of those single images that people recognise immediately,” said Alyson Crean, a representative from the City of Key West office, “and the design is a good synopsis of Key West: the conch shell, the proximity to Cuba, all of it in front of our beautiful turquoise water.”

Key West gets around three million visitors annually, the City of Key West office estimates that approximately 90% of these travellers visit the four-tonne buoy-shaped structure for a photo op. This point marks the southernmost point in the continental United States and is located 90 miles from Havana, beside the Atlantic Ocean. The landmark reaches 13 feet-high and nine feet-wide and was severely damaged during Hurricane Irma, which struck the area in September 2017.

The buoy after sustaining damage during the recent hurricane. Image by City of Key West

Three people were involved in bringing the marker back to its former glory. John Zeoli, from the Key West’s Community Services Department, reformed the shape as the cement had been broken away, he also did the base painting. Then artists Danny Acosta and Henry DelValle, who originally painted the marker in 1976, completed the fine brushstroke detailing.

“We’re a strong community, and we’re optimistic about the eventual complete recovery,” said Crean of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma to Florida Keys. The area reopened to guests on 1 October, but some areas on the 125-mile island chain are still recovering from the massive storm, which left more than a million homes without power after it struck. “Key West was more fortunate than many other parts of the Keys. Today, visitors will see a bit less vegetation on the island, a downed fence here and there, and some sunken and stranded boats, but mostly it’s hard to tell there was a major storm.”

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Key West Mayor Craig Cates explained that the buoy’s refurbishment was a priority for the area. “For Key West to really recover, we had to have this monument back painted again so people could come here again and take their picture and feel like something special when they visited Key West,” said Cates.

Before the Southernmost Point Buoy, Key West used a wooden sign to mark the southernmost point of the country. Today the spot couldn’t be more distinguished with its bright new paint job, there’s even an online webcam relaying live videos of visitors taking pictures at the iconic site. See the renovated buoy here.