We hope you enjoy your visit to Cedar Key's past!

For more information on this area, we highly recommend Cedar Key Florida: An Illustrated History by Kevin M. McCarthy ( Nature Coast Publishing House 2006).

Click here for a map of the Cedar Keys to view the outlying islands associated with Cedar Key's colorful history.

CLICK HERE FOR A Map of Cedar Key and outlying islands
Map of Cedar Keys

Click here for a view of Cedar Key's population over the years.

500 million years ago


The City of Cedar Key in Levy County, Florida is part of the continent of Africa.


400 million years ago


Africa and North America collide to form a super continent.


200 million years ago


The super continent broke apart. Florida remained attached to North America but was underwater.


2 million years ago to 10,000 B.C.


Water rose and fell over the globe. During the glacial period, Florida's central ridge was created.


500 B.C. to A.D. 200

Based on archaeological evidence, it is believed the Indian tribes of the Deptford period lived in the area of what is now Cedar Key.

A.D. 200 to A.D. 1000


This period is known as the Weeden Island Period. The Timucua tribe may have lived in the Cedar Key area. Visit the Shell Mound archaeological site to view a midden from this period. More information about the indigenous people of this time can be found at the Cedar Key State Museum and the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum.




The Spanish explorers decimated the Native American population while leading large forces to the east of Cedar Key. Spain controlled Florida for the next 250 years except from 1763-1783 when it was controlled by the British.




Spain traded Florida to the United States in exchange for any U.S. claims on Texas.




Map of Cedar KeysFederal troops were stationed on Depot Key (later known as Atsena Otie Key) and established a hospital on their base. Here, Colonel William J. Worth declared an end to the Second Seminole War in 1842.


August 1842


The Armed Occupation and Settlement Act was passed by Congress. To entice settlers to move to Florida, it stated that anyone who built a home and cultivated five acres for five years would receive 160 acres of land.


October 1842


A hurricane swept across Depot Key, raising the water level 27 feet and destroying many of the buildings.




Augustus Steele took possession of Depot Key under the Armed Occupation and Settlement Act. It was renamed Atsena Otie ("aSEEna Otee") Key.




Florida is admitted to the Union. On March 10th, Levy County s established by the Florida Legislature.




A lighthouse was built on Seahorse Key. It was funded by Congress in response to requests from navigators using the Cedar Key as a shipping port for cedar, cypress and pine products such as rosin and turpentine. The lighthouse was first manned in 1854 by William Wilson, Sr.



Atlantic to Gulf Railroad

David Levy Yulee began the cross-Florida railroad from Fernadina to Cedar Key.




Cedar Key United Methodist Church founded on Atsena Otie.




A town plat was established on Way Key for a "company" town for the railroad. The Island Hotel was built on 2nd Street out of cypress and "tabby", a mix of lime rock and crushed oyster shells.Island  Hotel, Cedar Key, Florida


A RECIPE FOR TABBYclose up of a tabby wall

One part lime ash, created by burning oyster shells and wood in a very hot fire

One part washed sea sand. This becomes the binder in the mix.

Two parts cracked and whole sea shells, mainly oysters from the Indian mounds.

Add enough water to make a thick slurry.

Pour mix into building forms that are approximately 12 inches wide.

When dry, raise wall forms and do it all again.

Coat finished walls with a paste made of lime ash and sand.

Tabby walls wick water from the ground. The evaporation causes cooling in the building's interior. With some maintenance, a tabby building will last beyond 100 years.





The census for Atsena Otie reported a population of 297 living in forty-seven homes. Two businesses were recorded, the Faber pencil factory and Nutters Mill which produced cedar slats.




The cross-Florida railroad from Fernadina to Cedar Key was completed. On January 10th, Florida seceded from the union. Later that year, Union forces occupied Seahorse Key, utilizing the lighthouse as a prison. Railroad Trestle Kiosk




Union troops occupied Cedar Key. Making salt was an important industry during this time. On Salt Key, the Cedar Key Confederate Salt works produced 150 bushels of salt each day from 60 kettles. Cedar Key State Museum display





Union blockade of Cedar Key




The Eberhard Faber Mill was built on Atsena Otie to supply cedar slats to a N. J. pencil factory. At the same time, a similar mill was built on Way Key, the Eagle Pencil Company. Way Key began to outgrow Atsena Otie as the railroad brought more people and commerce to the area.




Seahorse Key Lighthouse is relit.


October 1867


Naturalist John Muir arrived in Cedar Key to complete his 1,000 mile walk which began in Indianapolis.




Florida rejoins the Union. Christ Episcopal Church has its beginnings in services held in the communal church building.




Town of Cedar Keys is incorporated.




The town's population reached 400. Many of the residents worked in the fishing, green turtle and oyster industries.




Cedar Key Historical Society MuseumEdward Lutterloh built a residence on the corner of 2nd and D Streets. It now houses the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum.




The Lutterloh Store was built on the corner of 2nd and C Streets. It still stands today. Lutterloh Store




The first street lamps were installed on D and E streets. Residents were required to have privies built.




A ten second earthquake shook the area.



During this decade, Henry Plant purchased the railroad line that ended in Cedar Key. Unfortunately, the purchase did not include the Cedar Key terminal building which the owners refused to sell to Plant. Instead, he chose Tampa as the west coast port for his railroad. This move had a negative impact on Cedar Key as it reduced the connection with the rest of the world through railroad transit.

The Hale Building was erected on the corner of D and 2nd Streets



The Episcopal Church was moved to its present location, the corner of 5th and D. This same year the residents voted to borrow money to establish a road to the mainland.




Cedar Key acquired fire fighting equipment in the form of a hook and ladder truck and two fire extinguishers. In present day, the Cedar Key Volunteer Fire Department is located at 1st and C streets.

The town's population peaked at 2,000.




David Yulee's railroad company, the Florida Town Improvement Company, deeded land to the town for a cemetery. Until the 1900s, funerals could only be attended at low tide due to restricted road access.

Cedar Key also felt the effects of the Charleston Earthquake this year as well as a hurricane that made landfall south of Cedar Key at Red Level.




The area north of Cedar Key was hit by a category two hurricane.




Until 1932 Cedar Key was connected to the world by the Atlantic, Gulf & West India Transit Railroad. From here, passengers could also travel by steamship to ports from Pensacola to Havana.

The local industry switched to sponges and fishing from cedar slat harvest. Mullet, still a local favorite, was a prime commodity.




Prosperity had come to Cedar Key as a port town with more than 30 ships using it as their home port, including a steamship line that carried passengers from New Orleans to Havana.

All this changed on September 29, 1896 when the town was struck by a hurricane which included a ten-foot tidal wave. Both mills were destroyed and never rebuilt. A fire began which destroyed several buildings. Turpentine camps were devastated for a 30 mile swath. The sponge fleet suffered severe damage with 20 boats sinking with all hands on board. Without materials to ship by railroad, Cedar Key lost its status as a port town.

All of the changes contributed to the economic decline of Cedar Key. The decline was aided by Plant's decision to use Tampa as a port rather than Cedar Key as well as the logging without replanting and the over harvest of the green turtle population.

The only surviving original building on Atsena Otie Key, the Prescott Building, is now located at 210 2nd Street. Some of the older homes on 1st Street were floated over from Atsena Otie following the storm.




Population of Cedar Key was 739 according to the census. About 30 families lived on Atsena Otie.

Around this time, the Schlemmer rooming house was built. It now houses the Cedar Key Public Library. Schlemmer Building




A wireless telegraph was installed on Seahorse Key by the U.S. Navy.




The oyster beds were closed to commercial fishing due to depletion.

Dr. Daniel A. Andrews, Sr. purchased an oyster canning plant to convert it to manufacturing palmetto fiber brushes (Standard Manufacturing Company).




Former school teacher Elizabeth Hearn passed away, leaving her land to the town as long as it cared for her final resting place. The Cedar Key School is on that site.

The population of Cedar Key at this time was 864.

Andrews HouseThere was a lot of development along 2nd Street during this year. The Andrews House, now located at the Historical Society Museum, was built at 39 2nd Street.







W. R. Hodges built a home from the heavy timbers left over from the Faber Mill destroyed in 1896 on Atsena Otie. It was finished in fine Queen Anne Victorian style and can still be seen today. WR Hodges House

On the corner of 2nd and D streets, a Masonic Hall was built. Look for the lodge stone at the entrance..




The Cedar Key State Bank was established. Drummond Community Bank now occupies the building on the corner of 2nd and C streets. Drummond Community Bank



Dr. Andrews, Sr. patented the Donax-whisk, a brush made of palmetto fibers. The Standard Manufacturing Company operated until it was destroyed by hurricane in 1950 and employed over 100 people. Unlike previous commercial ventures such as oyster, turtle and timber harvesting, the process wasn't destructive. Only the bud was harvested, leaving the plant intact for the next harvest. You can visit the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum to view an exhibit of the equipment used in the manufacture of the whisks. Donax Broom Sleeve



The Seahorse Key Lighthouse was extinguished. It is now part of the National Wildlife Refuge and provides protection for the brown pelican rookeries.

Cedar Key High School was built this year.




The census recorded the population of Cedar Key as 695.




An attempt was made by the federal government to establish a leper colony on North Key or Snake Key but was quashed by local officials. The facility was relocated to Carrville, Louisiana.



Cedar Key First Baptist Church bought lots for a building on 2nd Street.



The town of Rosewood, about 10 miles inland from Cedar Key, was destroyed by a white vigilante mob.

Dr. Andrews bought most of Atsena Otie Key for $500 from the Faber Company.




The state of Florida finished a paved road from Archer to Cedar Key.




The city of Cedar Key borrowed $150,000 for infrastructure improvements.



The Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge was established as a nesting rookery for birds.


Population 1,066 Cedar Key Church of Christ evangelists first come to town.


The Interstate Commerce Commission closed the railroad line from Fernadina to Cedar Key. Levy County agreed to buy the right-of-way for the docks from the railroad company. Two Greek spongers from Tarpon Springs were murdered while being held in the Cedar Key jail. After this event, spongers no longer came to Cedar Key.


The city of Cedar Key was unable to pay the money it had borrowed in 1925 and was financially destitute.


Florida Motor Lines operated a bus line that ran twice daily from Cedar Key to Gainesville.



The Labor Day Hurricane passed about 40 miles from Cedar Key and destroyed the Maddox Theatre.

In an unrelated incident, part of the docks burned. The federal government helped pay for the reconstruction, along with donated funds from local residents and county officials. Like the present rebuilding, it took several years to complete.




Seahorse Key was added to the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.

Cedar Key Properties donated land to the state for an airstrip.




The state of Florida established an airstrip in Cedar Key. It was used as an air and sea rescue base beginning in World War II.




Population 988

State of Florida transferred the airstrip to the city of Cedar Key.




Cedar Key High School was destroyed by fire.




Cedar Key Church of Christ was built on E Street.

St. Clair Whitman set up a section of his home as a museum to display artifacts collected in Cedar Key since 1880.




The airstrip was named George T. Lewis Airport.




Local chapter of the VFW organized.




About 500 feet of the dock and 4 fish houses were destroyed by fire. Levy county agreed to rebuild out of concrete.

The George T. Lewis Airport was turned over to the county by the city. For a video of a landing at the airport, click here.

Atsena Otie was sold for $50,000.

Hurricane Easy struck Cedar Key on September 6th. Wind speeds exceeded 175 miles per hour.




A twenty year permit to establish a marine laboratory on Seahorse Key was granted to the University of Florida.




The City Beach was "built" on 2nd Street. To get state funding for the beach, it had to be adjacent to a state road. Local Senator W. R. Hodges had State Road 24 diverted down 2nd Street to satisfy the legal requirement.




A chlorination plant was added to the water system. Cedar Key was also served by a one man police force and volunteer fire department.




Hurricane Flossie




A phone system was added by Southern Bell.




The first restaurant in Cedar Key opened, Johnson's, on Dock Street where the Seabreeze is now located.




The "Honeymoon Cottage" was built. It was severely damaged by Hurricane Elena in 1985.




Cedar Key Woman's Club established.




The Florida State Legislature renamed the No. 4 bridge to honor W. Randolph Hodges. Click here to view photographs from the Florida State Archives.

No. Four Bridge Dedication sign




The Cedar Key State Museum opened.




First annual spring Arts Festival.

Cedar Key purchased the land where the city hall is now situated. Cedar Key City Hall

Hurricane Dora




Cedar Key Special Water and Sewer District installed a new water system.

Hurricane Alma




UF bought 41 acres of Seahorse Key for its marine research program.

The No. 4 concrete bridge was completed. The remains of the wooden bridge were left as fishing pier.



Cedar Key Lions Club established.



Areas were filled to add streets parallel to 2nd Street. First Street included a bulkhead and parking area adjacent to the marina. Cedar Key City Marina

Third Street connected State Road 24 to paved areas at the east end of the island.




The land was purchased for the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve adjacent to SR 24.




Hurricane Agnes



The Cedar Key Historical Society was established. Cedar Key Historical Society Museum



The artist cooperative, the Cedar Keyhole, was established. Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op




Cedar Key High School was closed by the Levy County School Board for funding reasons and due to a federal complaint under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act that equal access to sports and physical education was not provided for both girls and boys.

The Cedar Key Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol received its official charter.

Population 700




The High School was reopened after funding was provided by the legislature.

The Shell Mound was added to the 52,000 acre Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.



Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce founded.

Park Place in Cedar Key was built on 2nd Street! Park Place in Cedar Key



The weekly newspaper, the Cedar Key Beacon was first published.

The Cedar Key Oystermen's Association was established.




Hurricane Elena struck and did extensive damage to Cedar Key. The winds were sustained at 100 mph for a three day period.

Hurricane Juan struck and flooded the town in the fall of that year.

The Cedar Key Garden Club built the hexagon shaped gazebo in the City Park. It has served as a bandstand and a grand place for outdoor weddings over the years.Cedar Key City Park Gazebo

The current volunteer fire department was established.



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added 5.4 acres at the end of Shell Mound Road to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.



The Cedar Key Historical Society first published its Historic Old Cedar Key: A Walking Tour. Revised in 1999, this tour is a wonderful way for visitors to visit the history of the island.

The City of Cedar Key upgraded to a central dispatching system for emergency personnel.




Cedar Key got its first ambulance.

Eagles Aerie 4194 was established.




Population 915




Cedar Key was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hurricane Marco




St. Clair Whitman house was donated to Cedar Key State Museum.St Clair Whitman House

The State of Florida closed many oyster beds off of Cedar Key and Dixie County due to pollution concerns. To help fishermen recoup the loss of their livelihood, the State sponsored Project OCEAN (Oyster and Clam Education Aquaculture Network). Use this link for more information about the Florida Shellfish Aquaculture. This project allowed fishermen to lease offshore aquaculture areas from the state and use these to raise clams and oysters. For history and an overview of the "Clamelot" in Cedar Key, click here.




Sewer system upgraded.

Hurricane Harvey




Cedar Key was designated Florida's Outstanding Rural Community of the Year.

The "No Name Storm" or "Storm of the Century"




Water system upgraded.

Cedar Key Veterans' Memorial





A veterans' memorial was dedicated in front of City Hall.




Net Fishing MemorialA constitutional amendment passed by the voters of Florida banned gill nets, entangling nets and any nets large than 500 square feet. The banned covered an area 9 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico and 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. It put at least 25 Cedar Key families out of business, closed fish houses and made the process of catching mullet a much more labor intensive task. A memorial to the net fishermen is in front of City Hall.


Hurricanes Alison and Opal




Hurricane Josephine




State of Florida opened the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute by the No. 4 Bridge.

Atsena Otie Key was sold to the Suwannee River Water Management District which arranged with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have the island managed as part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.

A 300-foot-long boardwalk at the Shell Mound County Park was dedicated to volunteer Al Georges of Cedar Key.




Several local organizations banded together to dedicate the Indian Burial Shell Mound Memorial Garden. These groups included the Cedar Key Garden Club, the Historical Society, the Lions Club and the Woman's Club. The garden is located adjacent to the Lions' clubhouse on the corner of 6th and F Streets. It is a memorial to Native American and African Americans buried on the hill.

Hurricane Earl



King Leo, Leader of the Free WorldMr. Leo arrives at Park Place in Cedar Key.

The City added 24 boat slips to the marina.

Hurricane Irene



Hurricane Gordon



The first annual Cedar Key Star Party was held in February.




One of the Cedar Key School buildings was destroyed by fire. St. Clair Whitman house open to public at Cedar Key State Museum. St Clair Whitman House




The first Clamerica event was held on the 4th of July. It is sponsored annually by the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association. For some tasty recipes click here.




Outside Magazine named Cedar Key as one of the top twenty places in America in its August 2004 issue.

The new public library building, the renovated Schlemmer Rooming House, was dedicated.

The Cedar Key Railroad Trestle Nature Trail opened on Grove Street along the old railroad track. It was sponsored by the Nature Conservancy.

The State of Florida dedicated the marine research laboratory at the No. 4 Bridge as Senator George G. Kirkpatrick Marine Laboratory.

Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne



Hurricane Dennis



An EMS (Emergency Medical Services) station was built on CR 347 outside of Cedar Key.

The City of Cedar Key bought the Lions' Club which is now a community center.

Hurricane Alberto

Faraway Inn began a volunteer Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program to spay/neuter feral and stray island cats.



Miss Bella begins to visit and stay awhile. Miss Bella



The city of Jacksonville, Florida, became the first city to introduce a Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) program for stray cats it in a shelter setting. The city teamed up with local nonprofit First Coast No More Homeless Pets and, with funding from Best Friends, launched the Feral Freedom program. This program allows First Coast No More Homeless Pets to take all community (feral) cats entering Jacksonville’s Animal Care and Protective Services, so that they can be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped and returned to their outdoor homes. According to the First Coast No More Homeless Pets website: “This program has and continues to save thousands of cats each year from certain death at Animal Care and Protective Services, and frees up vital resources to be used on adoptable pets.”



Cedar Key is named the Florida Outstanding Rural Community of the year.


Mr. Leo passed away peacefully on January 25, 2010 after a struggle with cancer.


Park Place in Cedar Key receives a Conservation Award from the City of Cedar Key for recycling efforts and Green Lodging Designation.




PO Box 613 :: Cedar Key, FL :: 32625



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