Until destroyed by fire December 17, 1977, the Big Pine Inn was a familiar landmark. It is said to have been built in the early 1900s by Mrs. Gussie Zeigner. It had 12 rooms, dining room and bar. Rather than deter guests, prohibition days were an attraction. There never seemed to be a shortage of “spirits.” The original Big Pine Inn survived until 1946 to be reopened in 1954. Al Laughlin purchased it for $25,000 and did extensive remodeling.
There was no road or highway when this photo was taken. The railroad was the only “road”. Passengers could get off the train right in front of the hotel. There was no highway until about 1938 after the Great Hurricane of Sept 1, 1935 washed out the rails at Islamorada. Flagler threw in the towel on the railroad and the Federal Work Program of the Depression years built a highway on the railroad bed in record time with the manpower of out of work veterans and others skilled labor.
That was a good picture of the old Big Pine Inn. The well for the train’s water is still right down the street behind the FedEx building. We used to use it when that was our lobster trap yard. I remember those two old houses they tore down. The store was called the Market Basket. I used to stock shelves there. Both houses were in bad shape.
The first Overseas Highway was completed in 1928 It crossed Big Pine Key from No Name Key on what is now Watson Rd. Then it crossed to Little Torch via a bridge and then on to Key West.
This placemat was recovered from the fire by Mel Marshall and donated to bigpinekey.com by Mel Marshall Jr.
Fire on December 17, 1977
The next day
March 2011 is was still a vacant lot.