Key West experienced two major hurricanes in 1909 and 1910. Both hit in October and were rated between a category 3 & 4 hurricane. In 1909, more than 400 buildings were destroyed. Many of the buildings were blown off their foundations, collapsed from hurricane force winds or were washed away. Nearly every ship and dock in the city was badly damaged or destroyed. Estimates of overall damage in Key West were set at one million dollars in 1909 currency.
While this house was built for the commanding officer of the Key West Submarine Base, its use by President Harry S. Truman as a site for working vacations earned it fame as "The Little White House." During Truman's 11 trips here from 1946-1953, he negotiated policies ranging from the Marshal Plan and Truman Doctrine, the recognition of Israel, and penning executive orders governing Civil Rights. In subsequent years, the building continued to be used by other presidents for work and leisure.
Built between 1938 and 1939, the Western Union is one of the oldest surviving wooden working schooners in the United States and the oldest remaining built in Key West. It laid and maintained telegraph cables between Key West, Cuba, and the Caribbean Island nations. The ship is the flagship of City of Key West and was named the flagship of the State of Florida in 2012. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Norberg Thompson, a self-made man and entrepreneur, owned most of the historic district. During the Great Depression, Thompson employed nearly 40% of Key West's residents. His businesses included ship building, sponging, fishing, canning, ice production, cigar box production, and transportation. He pioneered the local shrimping industry, which expanded during the "Florida Pink Gold Rush" (1949- 1970s). Thompson served as mayor from 1915-1917. He was a man of vision and enterprise, featuring prominently in Key West's early 20th century economic development.