Key West celebrates bicentennial as US territory

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, visitors gather at the Southernmost Point marker Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Key West, Fla. City of Key West Public Works employees completed restoration of the iconic marker late Thursday, after it was scorched early New Year's Day when two men burned a Christmas tree next to it. Both men were served warrants and charged with criminal mischief with damages over $1,000. The Southernmost Point marker is one of the most popular landmarks in the Florida Keys. (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP) (Rob O'Neal)

KEY WEST, Fla. – Key West is celebrating the bicentennial of its designation as a U.S. territory on Friday.

U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Perry planted the American flag on island soil on March 25, 1822. Events at Mallory Square will include a Navy color guard presentation and flag raising that symbolizes Perry’s historic act.

Also scheduled are the filling and dedication of a granite time capsule to be opened in 50 years, the announcement of four Key West children who will be ambassadors at the island’s 250th anniversary celebration and comments by local, state, military and Bahamian dignitaries. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez are scheduled to attend.

Events will continue with a bicentennial gala Friday night at Key West’s Oldest House Museum, a Saturday heritage festival at Truman Waterfront Park and ongoing history and art exhibits saluting the island’s past.

Perry’s original logbook chronicling his voyage to Key West was recently presented to the local library’s Florida History Department for permanent safekeeping.

Ordered by the Navy, Perry sailed to Key West on the U.S.S. Shark to physically claim the island for the U.S. The Florida Keys strategic location guarded the northern edge of the Florida Straits, the deep-water route between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.