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of education, conservation, and
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History of the West Martello Tower

History of the West Martello Tower

Design of the Fort


Survey by the Navy to select a site for a fort whose guns could command the harbor


Army period began in Key West


Plans drawn up by Col. Joseph Gilmore Totten, US Army and Col. Simon Bernard, a French military engineer, for a set of nine forts. Cost revised to one large fort and two advanced batteries – the Martello Towers

Key West - the only southern city in Federal Union Government!


Florida became a state. Construction of Fort Taylor began. Sites for Towers selected but no work for 16 years. Ownership complicated


Civil War – Fort Taylor occupied by Federal troops. Key West the home port of the eastern gulf blockading fleet – about 40 Naval vessels. 45 Confederate runners bought to Key West harbor. Key West the only southern city in Federal government. Most citizens Confederate sympathizers


Work on the towers began. Many hazards. West Martello citadel completed. Two Martello Towers linked to Fort Taylor by a railroad. Work went on feverishly for four years, then sporadically for eight years, and then stopped.

West Martello becomes quarry for townspeople


West Martello cistern, lower floor and stairway completed and advanced battery up to about 20. West lower tier of casemates finished. East Martello about the same


Fort Taylor finished – 21 years after it was begun


Work on Towers ceased. Never armed. West Martello becomes quarry for Townspeople and target for Fort Taylor gunners


Modernization of defenses. Two small guns installed on ocean face of the tower casemates. Work filled in all of the casemates and sets of concrete steps leading up to the base of the gun mounts constructed.

Spanish American War - Tower used for quartering troops


Spanish American War – Tower used for quartering troops, storage, signaling and lookout


Used for radio stations, and an anti-aircraft battery on the beach. End of war, removal of guns and demolition of temporary buildings. Departure of troops


Release of all Army properties in Key West. Two Towers became property of Monroe County, and Fort Taylor of the Navy.

West Martello Tower Garden Center declared a National Historic Site


West Martello claimed as an eyesore to shoreline. Pressure on County to level the Tower and put in a new beach area. Representative Joe Allen appalled to see what remained of the old fort prevailed on commissioners to stop the demolition. The Key West Garden Club took interest in the old fort. Through the efforts of Representative Allen, lend-lease agreement arranged between Monroe County and the Garden Club


West Martello Tower Garden Center declared a National Historic Site by the State of Florida and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places


25th Anniversary of becoming incorporated – the center named West Martello/Joe Allen Garden Center, Home of the Key West Garden Club