15 March 2015

Perky's Bat Tower, Sugarloaf Key, Florida

The Florida Keys form the southernmost part of the USA and stretch to over 120 miles joined by just one road – the Overseas Highway, which is actually part of US Route 1. The word 'Keys' refers to an archipelago or island group, and tucked away on Sugarloaf Key is an unusual folly: Perky's Bat Tower, which is on a short but tripartite road which appears to be unnamed but which Googlemaps calls 'Bat Tower Road'.
The above structure was created by Richter Clyde Perky in 1929. He is described as a 'real estate developer' or 'fish lodge operator' from Denver, who wanted to make a success in this part of Florida. But there was a major problem, and Perky's development manager explained that there was a plague of mosquitoes. Searching for a solution, Perky came across Dr. Charles Campbell's Bats, Mosquitoes, and Dollars,in which Campbell says if bees can live in hives, then bats can do a similar thing. And mosquitoes can be as pollen to the bats. Perky's Bat Tower cost him $10,000 – surely a huge amount of money at the time, particularly for such a hit-and-miss venture? – but attracted no bats: it was a hopeless failure.

Inside Perky's Bat Tower.

Forget bats, an osprey has now made a nest on the top of Perky's tower.

 In 1982 Perky's Bat Tower joined the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, parts of the woodwork are showing signs of decay. Florida's a crazy place, in many respects it's a state way outside of the rest of the Union, but let's not make the restorable parts of its craziness become history.

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