Key West Garden Club
Key West Garden Club

West Martello Tower was constructed in the 1860's by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The name, Martello, is an apparent corruption of Mortella, a Spanish architect, who designed fortifications for the Island of Corsica in the late 1700's.

HISTORY - Key West Garen Club

Through the efforts of then County Commissioner Joe Allen, the dilapidated old fort was made available to the Key West Garden Club in 1955. Since the Club had been homeless for 20 years, the members were delighted. The members themselves did the work of cleaning and clearing; they brought plants from their own gardens and established a tradition of assuming responsibility for an assigned area.

Due to these efforts, as money was available, West Martello Garden Center has been made so beautiful that it is a prime tourist attraction, and one of the few places on the island that has no admission charge.

constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

no admission charge

Garden Club meetings are held in the pavilion, the records and equipment of the club are stored in powder magazines, and flower shows utilize every inch of space inside the buildings and grounds of the fort.

Scheduled floral design workshops are held at the Garden Center. "Work and Learn" and horticulture sessions help members and the public to learn the basics of growing plants in the Keys.

The Club's biggest fund raisers are Plant Sales and Garden Tours.

There is a newly updated reference and lending library. The public is welcome to browse and members may borrow books.

The Garden Center is maintained by club members under the direction of the Garden Center Chairperson.

Through the efforts of Mrs. Edward Graham, former National Projects Chairman, West Martello Tower was declared a National Historic Site on June 24, 1976 by the State of Florida and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places in Washington, D.C.

In September 1984, the West Martello Tower was renamed West Martello Tower, Joe Allen Garden Center. This was in honor of former State Representative Allen who made it possible for the Key West Garden Club to call West Martello its home.

The garden sustained extensive damage and loss of trees and plants due to Category 2 Hurricane Georges in September, 1998.

In 1998, restoration of the brickwork arches was funded by Monroe County, with the work done by 3 preservation specialists. A new composition roof was added.

In 1999-2000 the old chain link fencing was replaced with a new iron fence. There is a new irrigation system in the nursery. The Colonel’s Garden, named after Col. J. Paul Scurlock, author of Native Trees and Shrubs of the FL Keys; a field guide, was replanted. New entrance pots, benches and decorative iron-work were added. The center was added to the city sewer system. We were proud that the West Martello was included on the Christmas Old Island Restoration Foundation Tour.

learn the basics of growing plants in the Keys

In 2001 an orchid arbor was established in the old citadel, utilizing antique Cuban tiles. Restroom facilities were added.

In 2001-2002, low volume irrigation and additional brick paving were completed.
The Garden Club adopted the Berg and Kitso Nature Preserve. Hurricanes Georges (1998) and Wilma (2005) heavily damaged the fort and plants. The Garden lost seventy percent of its plantings and was redesigned and replanted. Also after Wilma, restoration work included tuck-pointing the bricks, re-roofing and adding wrought iron fences.
In 2006 the family of Fran and Bill Ford established the Ann-Francis and William R. Ford Endowment for Key West Garden Club Fund.

A weekly botanical column in the Key West Citizen began in 2008.

The Club received a grant in 2011-2012 from the Florida Department of Forestry to promote native trees. A four-color book was produced as a companion to Plants of Paradise. Roots, Rocks and Rain: Native Trees of the Florida Keys won a Florida Federation of Garden Club's National Publishing Award.

A native tree garden was planted by the back gate to improve "curb appeal". Many native trees were planted inside the garden, as well as in the community. The Nursery benefited with improved plant benches and propagation tools.

The Garden Club became a Certified Wildlife habitat in 2012 and a Certified Butterfly Habitat in 2014.

new entrance pots, benches and decorative iron-work were added
The gazebo on the hill was repaired and re-painted in 2014. The Propagation Committee produced Plumeria, a book about frangipani trees.

In 2015, the educational Pavilion Room was completely renovated, with upgrades to the electrical system, air conditioning and decor. Magnetic painted walls are used to display photographs pertinent to current lectures.
The Propagation Committee produced another book, Seasons Project, which describes the biologic progression of a series of plants throughout the year.

"Pat's Garden", featuring native plants, was established in 2015 outside of West Martello on Atlantic Boulevard in honor of the late horticulturalist, Garden Club member and a former Garden Club President, Pat Rogers.

In 2016, the Garden Club installed Flexi-paving on the pathways going up the hill, making that area accessible for disabled visitors and much safer for all guests to walk to the top of the gardens, admire the beautiful sea view and enjoy the native plants.

visiting the gardens keeps improving year on year