Now, more than half a lifetime after I first saw Key West, I've returned to explore it in a feet-on-the-ground instead of hands-on-the-tiller way. Despite my land approach, I feel like I'm at sea. First off, shipwrecks (and a seafaring history) are ever present. In Old Town, the city's historic district, one of the main streets is Whitehead, a mile-long avenue that nearly reaches from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. It is named for John Whitehead, who arrived in Key West in 1818 after the ship carrying him from Mobile to New York ran aground. Whitehead and his partner, John Simonton, were the first entrepreneurs to realize that Key West's deep-water harbor and its position at the juncture of major shipping lanes made the city an ideal place to offload salvaged cargoes. Congress fast-tracked Key West's development by decreeing in 1825 that all goods recovered from wrecks in national waters had to be taken to a U.S. port of entry. Three years later, Key West was designated a port of entry, and less than a decade after the shipwreck that brought John Whitehead to Key West, merchants and clerks, shipwrights and captains lured by the promise of its setting poured into the new port.