All images courtesy of Jack Becker
Site: White Street Pier, which extends from a closed-off street intersection
out in to the Atlantic Ocean.
Funding: The nearby signs acknowledged donors and the committee which
organized the project, in much larger lettering than those being remembered.
Miller Brewing Company's name is in the largest letters, since the beer
maker gave the most money ($50,000). This surprised me, since it was obvious
that Miller Brewing wanted to get name recognition for their donation,
regardless of how it may appear to visitors, that is, a bit commercialized.
However, without Miller's gift, the project would not have been possible,
since the design cost twice the $50,000 raised (anticipating significant
city in-kind help, presumably). The city is expected to care for and
maintain the site, although this apparently is not a priority.
History & Description: The memorial is inset into the former street area
(with surrounding curb and accompanying benches), and the names of those
being remembered are inscribed in small type into large black marble tiles
surrounded by colored concrete (including imagery referencing the line of
islands leading to Key West). Names were collected by the planning
committee, via word of mouth and ads run in the local paper seeking
submissions. The people named are mostly from Key West or folks who spent
time there (as with Toronto.) When I visited the site, some people walked by
without noticing the names, while some paused to read. There were many skid
marks from bikes, skateboards, and other vehicles, since there are no
barriers preventing people from walking or riding over the names.
Dan Spencer and colleagues at the Wheeler Group (now Perkins and Will), an
architectural firm in Minneapolis, won the competition. I was fortunate to
meet Dan in Key West during my visit so I could get more detailed background
Dan was not happy with the revisions made to the design, due primarily to
the restricted budget, the site, and the need to acknowledge sponsors (The
revisions included a decision to scrap his custom designed benches in favor
of catalog seating, for example). He was forced to accept the fact that the
piece was not being maintained well, and that the planting of smaller and
fewer trees meant that it would be years before the palms would reach any
scale to have a noticeable impact. He acknowledged that the choices
regarding display of names and the need to expand the list in the future
made it very challenging. He didn't like the concrete panels next to the
black marble ones with names in them, suggesting that there is room for more
additions, albeit a limited number. He hoped to get the color changed to
more closely resemble the black marble and to maintain a cordial working
relationship with the project committee representatives.
The subtleties of the design revealed themselves only after some time,
including details in the concrete texture and surface color, as well as the
image of the Florida Keys spreading out, and other touches. The light
fixtures, sticking out of the ground, were a major obstruction , especially
during the day. Traffic noise made it very difficult to imagine someone
having a quiet or grieving moment here. The old adjacent pier (without any
modifications) however, offered a place to walk out over the ocean, to
experience a kind of solitude. It is big enough that informal "events" take
place there, apparently many Key Westers go there for the July 4th fireworks