Stock Island History


[adapted] CAROL SHAUGHNESSY, Florida Keys News Bureau

When Bobby Mongelli looks around the Hogfish Bar and Grill, he sees far more than the funky, quintessentially casual locals’ emporium he created overlooking the water in Stock Island’s Safe Harbor area.

In his mind’s eye, he can visualize a revitalized Stock Island — a working waterfront community alive with history, where Florida Keys shrimpers and commercial fishermen unload their catches as tourists watch, and a harbor walk connects small shops, restaurants, fish markets, marinas and artist studios. In fact, on the island next to Key West, he envisions a vibrant, close-knit community much like the one he embraced in Key West in the late 1970s and early ’80s. And he’s working with other longtime residents and business owners to preserve Stock Island’s waterfront character and way of life while rejuvenating the rundown industrial landscape.

Mongelli has felt like a local since early in his Keys sojourn, when he was captivated by the residents’ friendliness and revealed in catching his own lobster and fish for dinner. He still spends much of his leisure time on the water, spearfishing or taking his four kids out wakeboarding.
Mongelli’s abiding affection for his home and its surrounding waters fuels his efforts to shape Stock Island’s future. “There’s a whole group of people that are going to try to preserve the waterfront for the fishermen and develop a tourist economy at the same time,” he says. “People have this vision in their minds of this old Key West fishing community — and Stock Island is becoming what Key West used to be.”

The community also has its own vibrant heritage. A ferry that once connected Key West and Havana departed from a dock across from the Hogfish, and local lore says Safe Harbor was a staging area for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.

However, discovering the historic working waterfront is just one of the activities Mongelli suggests for visitors to the Florida Keys. “Take a sunset cruise,” he advises. “It’ll blow you away. Eat some local seafood. Have a margarita on the beach at sunset — it’s so relaxing. And see the Keys like a local. That’s how you see the real Keys.”

Men on the Rifle Range

on Stock Island During World War II. ~Wright Langley Collection

Stock Island Auto Race Track

Part of the Stock Island Race Track circa 1960. ~ Wright Langley Collection

Shrimp Boats

in Safe Harbor on Stock Island ~Wright Langley Collection

Stock Island Hospital

Historic View of The Stock Island Hospital

La Curva

Stock Island History