Presidents of the United States have stayed on the Island
of Duck Key at the resort.
to the Florida Keys are usually unaware that a
refuge of President Harry S. Truman was
Duck Key and the Indies inn; now known as Hawk's
began visiting the Florida Keys in November of
1946 when a White House physician decreed a
vacation was in order so that the President
might rid himself of a persistent cold and
cough. Truman liked his visit to Key West so
much he returned many times to the Florida Keys
during and after his presidency. In 1964, the 80
year old former President came to Duck Key and
stayed at the Indies Inn. He arrived with his
two grandsons, his daughter, Margaret, and her
husband, Clifford Daniels, associate editor of
the New York Times, and Sen. and Mrs. John M. Spottswood of Key West, hosts to the Trumans.
Truman held court early each
morning with a 30 minute brisk walk just as he
did when he was President. A fast walker, Truman
expected residents who joined him to kept up
with the pace. The people of the Florida Keys
are " always cordial and act like they're
glad to see us - and of course we're glad to see
told reporters he planned to stay on Duck Key for two or
three weeks or "as long as my money holds out."
provided by Duck Key resident, Arlo Shay shows President
walking with longtime friend Senator John Spottswood to the newly dedicated Truman Bridge on Duck
to having his name given to an "appropriate" landmark on
Duck Key he said , "It's an honor to me . You're the
ones taking the chance." The Truman Bridge spans the
waterway separating Indies Island from the residences of
Truman visits Munson Island
Senator John Spottswood who at one time had been the sheriff of Monroe County said he planned to show Truman his "hideaway" on Munson's Island and to take him fishing. Truman made visits to the island. Almost 20 years later Munson Island became an exclusive resort known as Little Palm Island. In 1996, Noble House Hotels & Resorts purchased the island and made it a romantic upscale getaway.
The Spottswoods who owned a radio station in the Keys and the Trumans became friends when John Spottswood arranged for Mrs. Harry S. Truman to hear radio concert broadcasts from New York on his radio station. This was during the time Truman was President.
It is of interest to note that in 1962 , Spottswood was instrumental in getting Warner Brothers the film the movie "PT-109" at Munson Island . The movie was about John Fitzgerald Kennedy's service in Solomon Islands in 1943. John Spottswood portrayed the skipper of PT-109. Pictures of movie filming
Upon arriving at Duck Key Truman who had just returned from the funeral of King Paul of Greece, said, "I hope I outlive all of the kings so I can go to a lot of funerals." His trip abroad where, the President, he represented the United States stated "It was not a pleasant job, but it has to be done. It was a sad occasion."
In another exchange with reporters on Duck Key, Truman compared Cuban Premier Fidel Castro to a skunk. Castro's Communist Cuban government had just called Truman "criminal" for ordering the dropping of atomic bombs of Japan. Asked about the Castro comment Truman retorted that former President Calvin Coolidge once advised him never to get into a contest with a skunk.
below shows Truman receiving a haircut in Marathon from
Verb Freeman. Original of this picture hangs on the wall
of the Barber Shop owned by Bruce Freeman which is
located at the Gulfside Village Shopping Center in
The former president returned to the Keys for several winters after his visit to Duck Key. He swam in local waters, walked island streets, and, if he kept to form, played poker, and drank Kentucky Yellow Stone bourbon.
File in the Post Presidential Papers
visited the Florida Keys on the following occasions after
February 1957 - Former President Harry Truman arrived at the Olney Inn at Islamorada, where he stayed until his trip to Key West to speak at a benefit held at the Casa Marina Hotel on February 23 for his Presidential Library in Missouri.
This was the first time Truman returned to Key West since leaving the White House. The Olney Inn, a private fishing retreat at that time, became Cheeca Lodge in 1960. In 1957 it was owned by Clara May Downey and consisted of a hotel and twenty plus cottages shaded by several hundred palm trees.
February 14 to March 7, 1960 - First traveled to Miami to see a play starring his
daughter, Margaret, and relaxed in Miami and Key West. Truman interrupted his vacation at Key West Feb. 27 to speak at a Democratic fund raising dinner in Miami. While in Key West the Trumans were guests of John Spottswood and his wife.
March 14 - 28, 1964 - Truman stays at Duck Key
March 16 - 31, 1968 - The Trumans and Daniels stayed in seaside villas on the15-acre grounds of the Casa Marina Hotel, which is owned by Spottswood, but closed for
renovation. The former President and his wife arrived by Air Force jet and spent two weeks in Key West. The Casa Marina was used to billet Army troops during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis andfor some time thereafter. Later The Casa Marina became a training center for the Peace Corps.
March 22 - April 4, 1969 - Truman stayed with the Spottswoods in Key West.
Eisenhower and Johnson have also stayed at this best of
Truman and Key West
Harry S. Truman visited Key West eleven times during the
time he served as President. and stayed at the Key West
Naval Air Station. His visited frequently enough that the
house he stayed in became known as "The Little White
daughter Margaret and the First Lady often accompanied
Truman. Traveling with him were secretaries, Secret
Service agents, advisors, Cabinet members, military
personnel and members of the press.
would swim at the Enlisted men's beach at the Navy base.
This beach known locally as Truman's Beach was located
near by Fort Taylor before the Navy enlarge this part of
the base with fill.
- Truman's Eleven Visits to Key West
logs of Truman's daily activities while at the Little
White House together with pictures may be viewed at the
website of the Truman Museum. Some of the logs record the
temperature during each day of his visit. These are
fascinating accounts of President Truman's daily routine
while on vacation. Walking, swimming, meetings, dining
with family and guests, and watching first run movies are
all recorded. No mention of card playing, as Truman did
not want that mentioned in the Travel Log. There is
mention of the President frequently joining friends in
the evening on the porch, however.
the book "Counsel to the President" by Clark Clifford
with Richard Holbrooke, there are multiple references
about Truman playing cards.
first vacation trip to Key West, November 17-23,
Second Visit to Key West, March 12-19,
Third Visit to Key West, December 3-8, 1947
Fourth Visit to Key West
- Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guantanamo and Cuba,
February 20 - March 5, 1948
Truman's Fifth Trip to Key West, November 7-21,
Truman and Margaret make their first visit to Key
Truman lets his beard grow for the sake of vacation
comfort. The press teased him about a 3-day beard
Truman's Sixth Trip to Key West and Orlando, March 6 - 19
White House underwent redecoration, and log contains
photos of the Little White House interiors.
led staff meetings in the living room. In addition to
the desk/table used by Truman there is also the
presidential piano. There was no television, but there
is a radio. On one occasion the radio was used to
listen to the national singing debut of the
President's daughter, Margaret. A close friend of
Truman, John Spottswood, owned the local radio station
and switched networks so that Truman could hear
Margaret sing that evening.
President and Mrs. Truman had separated bedrooms. In
Mrs. Truman's bedroom, the second bed was used for the
president's daughter, Margaret. President Truman's
bedroom also had a day bed whereTruman would take
afternoon naps. The day bed was utilized because
Truman would not sleep on an already made bed because
that was the way his mother had taught him.
because of planned redecorations it was thought that
President Truman would stay at the Casa Marina Hotel .
The Casa Marina Hotel letter below mentions Truman and
sixty guests expected in March 6 of 1949. Renovations
were completed in time for the President's visit and
the Travel Log explains that Truman stayed in the
Little White House during this March 1949
Truman's Seventh Trip to Key West, 28 November 28 -
December 20, 1949.
extended vacation to Key West accompanied by the First
Lady and Margaret. Daughter Margaret participates in
volleyball games every day she was there.
Truman's Eighth Visit to Key West, 12 March 12 - April
retinue entertained themselves many evenings watching
the latest of new movies: The Third Man, Love Happy
with the Marx Brothers, s Twelve O'Clock High, Cheaper
by the Dozen, and Cinderella. Truman often did not
watch the movies, preferring to spend time with his
friends on the porch possibly playing cards although
the logbooks do not mention this.
of the Little White House tour feature a stop at the
poker room. The table and a nearby bar were made by
the Navy especially for the President. Ashtrays made
from shell casings were a part of the table. Bess
Truman, called this room "that smelly little
Truman's Ninth Visit to Key West, March 2 - 22
communicates with Bess, his wife and daughter Margaret
nearly every day by phone on his ninth visit. On the
4th, he and the rest of his party . Log record Truman
listening Margaret's guest appearance on Tallulah
Bankhead's "Big Show" radio program.
Truman's Tenth Visit to Key West, Florida, 8 November 8 -
December 9, 1951.
records Thanksgiving celebration by President and Mrs.
Truman and guests. Log provides menu and notes that in
"order to create the appropriate fall atmosphere in
sunny Florida, pumpkins, fall leaves and flowers, and
ears of corn were flown down from Washington, D. C.
Truman's Eleventh Trip to Key West, Florida, 7-27 March
have visited Key West.
Eisenhower recuperated from a heart attack at the Little
White House in 1956. Shown above is President Eisenhower
touring Key West at the corner of Truman and Margaret
Streets. The Margaret-Truman Laundromat in the background
indicates its location not that it is named after
Truman's daughter Margaret.
President William H. Taft arrived on the train, and after
touring the city and attending a luncheon in his honor,
sailed on a Navy ship to Panama to inspect the
construction of the Panama Canal, then in progress.
Kennedy and British Prime Minster Harold MacMillan came
to Key West for a major summit meeting at the time of the
Bay of Pigs incident in 1961.
1996, Jimmy Carter celebrated New Year's Eve in 1966 at
the Little White House with family and