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Duck Key in the Florida Keys

An Information Guide to Duck Key in the Florida Keys



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Roy Cohn, Bryan Newkirk, and Lucille Newkirk on Duck Key



An old news article reveals that Roy Cohn of Army-McCarthy hearing fame built one of the first homes on Duck Key. He may have built 1104 Indies Drive South, the home now owned by Tom and Graham Davis. It is also possible that Roy Cohn was just staying at the Davis home while his house was being completed. More information about Roy Cohn and Duck Key may be found below.


The first building constructed on Duck Key was the nursery building.

Nursery Building Duck Key

The Administration Building was the second structure to be completed. Pictured below are the Administration Building and Nursery Building



The first homes to be constructed on the residential islands of Duck Key are located at 1104 Indies Drive South (Davis residence and and associated with Roy Cohn), 1100 Indies Drive South, 158 Indies Drive North (Copeland residence), 146 Bimini Drive (Smithwich residence), and # Schooner Drive which is owned by the Kellogg, Brown and Root.

Early photo of the Newkirk house during construction. Visable down the canal from where Plantation Island Bridge is located today.

The first homes constructed on Duck Key are rather easy to identify. The homes were constructed at ground level and had overhanging tiled roofs, and shaded verandas. The homes also had some sort of a carport. With the passage of time a few of the carports have been converted to liveable space or garages. Imported Cuban tiles were use to cover interior floors. A number of the first homes had fireplaces and of course chimneys.

Notice the Kellogg Brown and Root chimney. Chimneys are something you do not generally see in the tropical Florida Keys.


The first homes were constructed so they would be different from each other in appearance. Eugene Otto (see Resort Growth) together with architects Alexander Lewis and Leslie Barrett and contractor Donald Barlow designed and constructed the first homes on Duck Key.

Developer Newkirk and his wife stayed in living quarters in the Administration Building during his early visits to Duck Key. Other buildings constructed early on were given names: Villas St. Pierre, Villa Jamaica, and Villa Trinidad. Villa Trinidad became the Newkirk residence and has changed hands a number of times over the years. It is now owned by Kellogg, Brown and Root, also known as KBR Engineering & Construction and serves as a corporate retreat.


Roy Cohn on Duck Key - 1104 Indies Drive South, one of the first homes to be built on Duck Key

1104 Indies Drive South, the present residence of Tom and Graham Davis on Center Island, may have been built for Roy Cohn who in the early 1950s was a "storm center of the Army-McCarthy hearings".

While the deed records have not been searched to substantiate ownership, a photograph and an old newspaper article dated from 1960 would lead one to surmise that 1104 Indies Drive South was once owned by Attorney Roy Cohn.

A May 20, 1960 UPI news article published in the Independent Press Telegraph entitled "Army-McCarthy Quiz Star Busy Attorney-Businessman" told of Cohn's expectation to cash in on the Florida land boom and reported that Cohn stated he was "developing a resort area on Duck Key, one of the chain of islands off the southern tip of Florida."

The article explains that Cohn had "recently put up his own house on the island and . . . joined the ranks of that happy breed of weekend jet commuters to Florida."

Pictured below is an image of Roy Cohn at work on a lounge chair behind 1104 Indies Drive South.

Another image in a scrapbook in possession of Hawk's Cay shows Roy Cohn in the same lounge chair but from a different angle. A small plane is visible and no doubt had landed on the small airstrip that developer John Newkirk built on Center Island. See Elizabeth Newkirk's recollections on the Duck Key Mecca web page.

In addition to becoming a director of Florida Southern Land Corp. in 1959 and developing the resort area on Duck Key, Cohn who was only thirty-three at the time of the 1960 article indicated that he headed a group of investor associated with Lionel Corp., makers of toy electric trains and after being elected Chairman made the corporation profitable again. He was also reported to be a director of Fenture Sports, Inc. which at that time was promoting boxing rematch between Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson. Johansson considered Duck Key as a possibility for a training camp for the Patterson fight. He chose Miami.

Cohn's mother's family controlled the Lionel Corporation which made it possible for him to acquire control of the venerable toy train maker company. Cohn borrowed over $900,000 from banks in New York, Panama, and Hong Kong to facilitate the deal. Cohn moved Lionel into the area of modern electronics. Cohn lost control of Lionel in 1962 with Lionel recording losses of more than $4 million a year.

Several books give accounts of Cohn owning a home on Duck Key.

Jacob M. Alkow in his 1985 book, " In Many World" wrote of meeting Roy Cohn and Bryan Newkirk on Duck Key, His recollection of marble bridges and the death of Bryan Newkirk's son are a bit off, but for the most part his narative agrees with news accounts of that perIod. Alkow died as a citizen of Isreal in 1999 at age 96. He was a Chinese art expert, a movie developer in Hollywood during World War II, a Wall Street financier, and was part of the American Zionist movement and an active participant in in the struggle for Isreal's creation. Of his experience on Wal Street he wrote:

"While in Los Angeles. I received a call. . . that a Mr. Brian [Bryan] Newkirk phoned from Florida. He wanted to know if I would meet him on my next visit to our office in Hollywood. Florida. He had a proposition that 'sounded very interesting.' . . . I had heard of Newkirk in Wall Street. He was a Canadian multi-millionaire, who made his fortune in uranium mines in Canada."southern point of the United States.

"Newkirk and his wife, Lucille, had an only son, who had died from an
incurable disease, leaving them two grandchildren. To memorialize the life of his son, Newkirk bought the island of Duck Key and began to convert it into a replica of Venice. [Actually the son was involved in the developement of Duck Key and his death brought building to a halt for a time. The Newkirks decided to honor their son's death by continuing the development.] Nerwkirk "cut through the island with canals and spanned them with decorated marble [concrete] bridges high enough for small craft to pass underneath. Newkirk asked me to be his guest for three days on Duck Island. I would see the beauty of the site and its potentialities. My association with Wall Street wa now leading me to new ventures."

Alkow wrote that he thought Duck Key to be even " . . . more beautiful than Newkirk's description of it. With its canals, curved marble bridges, and wide, two-story houses built in the exquisite architectural style of the West Indies, there was nothing like it on the North American continent". Alkow recalled that there were " about twenty other permanent residents on the island and about eight guests from all over the world, most of whom were listed in Who's Who."

"Surrounded by a view of the blue waters, I could not have wished for better accommodations. There were fifteen people at dinner and a trio played South American music. One of the guests was Roy Cohn. Like many Americans. I could not forget the important role that Roy Cohn played as the chief counsel for McCarthy's Un-American Activities Committee during one of America's darkest hours. Roy Cohn was one of Newkirk's lawyers, and he occupied a beautiful cottage. Newkirk himself was politically a reactionary, but his cool attitude toward Cohn helped to mitigate my uneasiness in getting involved with him and his associates. Newkirk alone, I thought, was bad enough for me, but with Cohn as his lawyer, it was a little too much to take. After a few days some of my fears and suspicions were allayed by Lucille Newkirk."

Of Lucille Newkirk, Alkow observed that Lucille "was as different from her husband as any wife could be different from the man she lives with". She had withdrawn herself from her husband and his opulent way of life. The bottles of Canadian rye standing on the tables of the house helped her retain her inner equilibrium."

Alkow wrote that Lucille took consolation in her life by reading books.
Alkow recorded that Lucille "did not like her husband, . . . her daughter-in-law, and . . . did not like Roy Cohn" Lucille liked "honesty, humility, and intelligence. She avoided all the pleasures and pastimes of her husband". I waited for every available chance to sit and talk with her and listened to her expressions of faith with reverence.

Alkow comments further that he liked spending time with Lucille Newkirk. He observed that she was a "remarkable woman, old beyond her years. As time went on, my respect for Brian Newkirk increased because of the admiration he had for his unhappy wife."

Alkow recounts a fishing trip that he, Roy Cohn, Newkirk and his
daughter-in-law took. At the end of the busy day catching fish, he writes" . . .
my relations with my three companions with whom I had spent a full day were very friendly and cordial. Even Roy Cohn appeared in a better light. He was bright and interesting as a conversationalist. He avoided all controversial subjects including anything Jewish with which I tried to test him. Ironically, Newkirk. who said that he never thought of me as a Jew always thought of Roy Cohn as a Jew. When I told him angrily. 'What you call Roy Cohn a Jew?' he was embarrassed".

Newkirk tells Alkow of his plan to build a large luxurious hotel on Duck Key. He explains that he has used up "a great deal of money in the development of the island and laying the foundation for the hotel" and was in need of private and public financing to complete the project. Alkow agrees to present financing plans to his firm when he returns to Wall Street.

"On my return. I consulted with underwriters of new enterprises and they
agreed to join our firm in raising the funds needed for the building of the hotel. I called Newkirk and he was delighted."

On Alkow's second visit to Duck Key he attends an elaborate party after concluding business.
"International Was the Word for Newkirk Party." read one Miami newspaper. "Alkow writes, "After the party which was hilarious. I told Lucille that while I enjoyed it very much. I was not overly impressed with the big name celebrities. She smiled and promised not to tell her husband. Quite unintentionally I derived some profit from Newkirk's reference to my association with him as his "able Wall Street financial advisor."

Alkow went through with the underwriting later in 1959. The SEC Digest in April of 1959 reported a proposed Florida-Southern Land Offering.

Florida-Southern Land Corp., Tom's Harbor, Monore [ sic. Monroe] County. Fla., filed a registration statement (File 2-14918) with the SEC on April 13, 1959, seeking registration of 2,000,000 share. The stock is to be offered for public sale at $2 per share. The offering is to be made on a best efforts basis by Alkow & Co., Inc., for which it will receive a 36 cents per share selling commission. The underwriter also will receive an expense allowance of $50,000, payable at the rate of 5ยข per share on each of the first 1,000,000 shares sold; and it will be entitled to purchase, at one mill each, 200,000 four-year warrants to purchase a like number of common shares at prices ranging from $2 to $3 per share.

The issuer was organized in 1956 to engage in the business of buying, selling, developing and operating real properties. Its present business consists of the ownership and development of a 300-acre tract known as Duck Key, located on the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys. It proposes to develop Duck Key as a luxury-type, island resort community. The Duck Key properties were acquired in 1956 from Florida corporations controlled by Bryan W. Newkirk, president of the issuer. In consideration thereof, the company issued 2,150,000 common shares to Newkirk Realty Corp. Newkirk Realty, which is said to have expended $1,131,362 on the properties, has been liquidated; and of the 2,750.000 shares. 2,529,000 were distributed to Lorita Trading Corp., a Liberian company owned by Mr. Newkirk and 138,000 shares to Newkirk personally. The company now has outstanding 2,801,655 common shares, of which 220,888 shares owned by Newkirk are to be donated back to the company.

The company first proposes to expend some $770,000 for the construction of 50 motel units and other facilities on Indies Island, one of its island properties, plus $153,000 for furnishings and equipment. $400,000 will be reserved for working capital, $125,093 will be used to repay advances by Newkirk, and $1,136,901 added to general funds to be used for either the construction of lease accommodations on Duck Key or the acquisition of additional land sites in other areas.

Florida-Southern Land Corp. underwent a name change to Florida Southern Corp. in 1961. Thisnew entity was adjudge insolvebt in August of 1963


Thomas Bruce Morgan wrote in 1965 in "Self-creations: 13 impersonalities"

"I would do anything Roy Cohn told me to do," said the client, "because he is the most wonderful lawyer in the world. ... Over the desk was a six-foot sailfish which Cohn had caught near his vacation home at Duck Key, Florida, in 1959."

The same snippet of information appeared in a 1960 edition of Esquire,

". . . Cohn awoke before eight in the morning. ... Over the desk was a six-foot sailfish which Cohn had caught near his vacation home at Duck Key, Florida, in 1959. ..."



Although the image above shows Roy Cohn relaxing on Duck Key, F.B.I records do not substantiate that Cohn ever owned a home on the island. How is it that the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed an interest in Cohn and Duck Key?

Cohn was accused of tampering with a 1959 grand jury probe in order to save four stock swindlers from indictment. Investigators thought possibly money change hands in Las Vagas or during Cohn's visit to Florida in 1960 and that possibly Duck Key might have been the location for this exchange of bribe money.


Portions of the F.B.I Cohn file appear below:

The case against Cohn alleged that $50,000 was paid to Cohn; two thirds of the bribe money was supposed to have been paid to an Assistant United States Attorney named Morton Robson with Cohn retaining the remaining third. The investigation tried to ascertain where the money exchange took place. Handwritten references to the side of the typed pages (b 7 c, etc.) indicate reasons for redacted parts of the communications.

The communication above shows that in 1962 the F.B.I. conducted an investigation at Duck Key to establish if Cohn owned a vacation home on the island.

The record below shows that an interview was conducted with a female to try an establish if Cohn had been on Duck Key as well as an effort to inspect Indies House ( now Hawks Cay) guest records.


The record below dated 8/27/1962 reports that several parties likely including County Officials reported no record of Roy Cohn owning a home on Duck Key.

Did Cohn own a home on Duck Key as the original May 1960 UPI news article stated? The picture of Cohn reclining in a lounge is evidence that Cohn visited Duck Key. A review of old property records might sheds some light on this mystery.



News reports of 1964 indicate that Roy Cohn was acquitted by a federal jury on charges of perjury and obstructing justice. If found quilty on all counts Cohn could have been
sentenced to 35 years.

He is quoted as telling newsmen "Above all I thank God for the United Stales of America, where no matter who in high places moves against you, there is recourse to a jury of 12 Americans." Who in "high places" was Cohn referring to? Cohn had previously contended that "a few people" in the Justice Department were out to get him. Robert F. Kennedy was U.S. Attorney General and headed the Department of Justice at this time. The animosity between Kennedy and Cohn began in 1953 during the Army-McCarthy hearings. Cohn was made Chief Counsel tothe McCarthy Committee and Kennedy was Assistant Counsel. Their differences actually led to fist fight in the outer chamber of Congress and according Donald Ritchie, the U.S. Senate historian. "they became enemies for the rest of their lives."


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