Wrecker’s Paradise By the time the island’s most infamous resident, John Jacob Housman, arrived circa 1830 Indian Key had already developed into a community of approximately 50 residents and two general stores. It was Housman, however, who reportedly invested more than $140,000 developing the island into the wrecker’s paradise it became. In addition to purchasing existing properties, he was the force behind the construction of additional wharves and two three-story warehouses. In the island’s heyday circa 1835, the island was not only home to the Tropical Hotel, with its restaurant, bar, billiards room and nine-pin bowling alley, but a population of nearly 150 people. Housman also invested heavily in the landscaping of the island as is indicated in the memoir, published in 1885, “Incidents in the Life of Hester Perrine Walker.” I cannot forget our delight on first seeing the beautiful little island of 12 acres. It was truly a “Gem of the Ocean.” The trees were many with many of them covered with morning glories of all colors, while the waving palms, tamarinds, papaws, guavas, seaside grape trees and many others too numerous to mention made it seem to us like fairy land, coming as we did from the midst of snow and ice.