David Wolkowsky, Keys Icon, Dies At 99

Sep 24, 2018

In the early 1960s David Wolkowsky saw rundown old buildings in his hometown and envisioned a refuge and mecca for writers, artists and other visitors.

That vision put Key West on the map as a tourism and cultural destination.

Wolkowsky died Sunday evening in the city where he was born 99 years ago.

Wolkowsky built the Pier House on Key West harbor, in an area that had served as a shipping pier and was far from the busy tourist district of today.

He renovated many landmark properties, including the original Sloppy Joe's — now Captain Tony's — and the old Kress department store, which became home to the eclectic local store Fast Buck Freddie's (now a CVS) and Margaritaville.

Wolkowsky helped guide the island's transition from a Navy town to a world-famous resort.

He was a close friend to generations of Key West's literary community, including Tennessee Williams, John Hersey and Judy Blume. He was also a patron of island artists and had many of his friend Williams' paintings, which have been displayed in Key West, New Orleans and are now showing at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU on Miami Beach.