“Pathway through Paradise”: the story of the Overseas Highway

I bought “Pathway through Paradise”: the story of the Overseas Highway by Marie & Peter Pittman during my first trip to the keys in 2019. It is a beautiful 8½” × 11″ slim book of 66 pages, with a glossy cover and generously illustrated with black-and-white photos. The reading experience was thus brief but a pleasure to turn every page.

The highway evolved from a series of low-level bridges between adjacent keys. The roadbed was constructed alongside the tracks of the Overseas Railroad. When the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 destroyed the tracks, the road was transferred to some of its bridges, such as that at Bahia Honda. What I found most interesting was that instead of widening that bridge to accommodate two lanes of traffic–which is what had been done to convert other bridges from a single-track width–the road in this case was constructed over the top trusses. That meant a staggering and scary drive 65 feet above the surface of the water.

The highway was not built in one direction from point A to point B:

“…the Overseas Highway would be built from both ends to the middle. Key West never would have tolerated paying for a road and bridge project they could not see. Starting from the mainland to the south and west was logical, starting from Key West to the east showed the voters tangible progress.”

The edition I had was a second printing, so it must have been a popular seller. A proofreader would have caught the occasional broken sentences, where it seems as if the Pittmans were interrupted in the middle of composition. I also caught an erroneous possessive it’s and the misspelling of Ernest Hemmingway.

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