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West Martello Fort: Key West, Florida

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

In 1822, the U.S. Navy surveyed sites to determine good places for a fort whose guns could command the harbor in Key West. In 1836, U.S. Army Col. Joseph Gilmore Totten and Col. Simon Bernard, a French military engineer, drew up plans for a set of nine forts. The high cost led to revising the plan to one large fort (Fort Zachary Taylor) and two advanced batteries: East and West Martello Towers.

In 1898, the West Tower was used during the Spanish American War for quartering troops, storage, signaling and as a lookout. In 1914-44, it was used for radio stations and an anti-aircraft battery on the beach. At the end of World War II, the troops departed.

In 1947, the Army-owned towers became the property of Monroe County. The West Tower had become an eyesore to the shoreline and there was pressure in 1949 to demolish it and put in a new beach area. Rep. Joe Allen convinced the County Commission to stop the demolition. The Key West Garden Club entered into a land-lease agreement with the County.

In 1976, the West Tower was declared a National Historic Site by the State of Florida and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Beautiful flowers and plants surround the whole property. Inside are nooks and crannies with history on the fort and there are tables with fans. No air conditioning!!

Also, if you are in the neighborhood, check out the no-frills beach called Rest Beach.

In this case the name “Rest Beach” is exactly what you’d end up doing here… RESTING! This is a totally NO frills place to hang out and enjoy the suns rays. There are NO bathrooms, NO food vendors, NO lifeguards, NO picnic tables, NO boat rentals, NO chairs, NO umbrellas, and NO hassles just sand, surf, ocean & sun! This SECRET SOLITUDE is a dream for those wanting to get away from the crowds of tourist flocking to the other Key West Beaches. There’s FREE parking across the street and south of the beach.


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