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Fort Zachary Taylor - Part of Key West's Civil War History

Updated on: Feb 10, 2021 6:06:14 PM

What began as part of a 19th century plan to help protect the southeastern coast of the United States, became Ft Zachary Taylor or just "Fort Zach" for short.

Two additional batteries were completed at the same time, not far away at the Martello Towers, which are just a few blocks away.

Construction of the fort consisted of limestone and granite from the New England area. The massive walls rose to about 50 feet above sea-level and are 5 feet thick.  The three level battlement, housed 42 massive cannons.  There were barracks that housed upwards of 800 men. There was an underground system to collect rainwater, that ran around the whole outside of the fort.  The construction was wholly made of man-made bricks, that were supplied from the Pensacola, Florida area.  The same masonry company was used to build Fort Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas, that was also being built during the same time frame.

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During the Civil War, the Union actually seized control of the fort, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Confederate Army.  Originally the fort was completely surrounded by water, with just a small walkway connecting it to the rest of Key West.  The fort was completed in the late 1860's, though the upper level was destroyed in 1889 to make way for newer weaponry.  The old cannons were then buried within the new outside wall, so that they could save on building materials.


Photo Credit: United States National Archives

In the late 1940's the US Army relinquished control over to the Navy.  Then the 60's those buried cannons and munitions were excavated to discover the largest collection of Civil War cannons.  In 1971 for fort was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

Currently, the fort and its grounds are one of the areas finest attractions.  It's also host to a number of annual events, including many Civil War reenactments and during Halloween is transformed into a haunted fort, but on a MUCH LARGER  and scarier scale...... 

For more information, hours and how to rent out the fort for private parties or weddings, visit their website.   

Topics: Activities, Waterfront, Beaches, Outdoor, Tours, BBQ

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