After Key West was settled, 'Conch' families moved up the Keys to establish small farming and fishing communities. In the mid-1800s, the Russell family homesteaded Umbrella Key, Windley Key's earlier name. The Russell family lived on the land until it was sold to the Florida East Coast Railway in 1908. The railroad was completed in 1912. The quarries and Windley Key Station continued to operate with local trains stopping daily to deliver fresh water and pick up mail and passengers. On return trips, shipments of polished 'keystone' were railed back to the mainland. The quarry was active into the 1960s and today stands as a preserved geological treasure.
From 1905-1912, Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway was the Key West Extension that would take the railroad from the Florida mainland to Key West. An important part of this operation was quarrying rock for various uses along the line. Workers lived in camps throughout the Keys. Railroad Camp #8 was set up inside the quarry at Windley Key. This quarry was used as a staging area for the building of the railroad. Hunks of coral were cut and used for decoration or crushed and used as fill.
The machine in this photo drilled and cut the coral in the quarry in 1940. Quarrying operations at Windley Key lasted through the 1960s.
A gin pole is a rigid pole with pulleys that was used at the quarry during the 1900s for lifting purposes.
This photo of the quarry, taken by well-known photographer Verne Williams in 1935, shows blocks of cut coral.