For the next few weeks, we’ll periodically have some information from 101 Travel Bits; Key West. Today, a look at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, one of the best places to get away from the crowds of Key West and get a history lesson on the side!
The Armed Forces of the United States have a long history with Key West, dating to the U.S. Navy’s arrival on the island to deal with the threat of pirates in the Caribbean in 1822. . . . By 1845, the Army had begun construction on Fort Zachary Taylor. Originally located approximately 1,200 feet off of the shores of Key West and connected to the island via a long access way, the fort would protect Key West’s harbor for about 100 years. During its long service to the United States, the fort saw the country through multiple wars. In particular, the fort proved vital to keeping Key West in Union hands throughout the Civil War. . . .
Despite its long service to the United States, by the 1960s the fort was obsolete. As part of a dredging project, the Navy filled in the water around the fort, land-locking what had been a small “island” in the harbor. Shortly thereafter, the United States turned the fort over to the State of Florida, which opened it to the public as Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Excavations at the fort around this time found the largest cache of Civil War-era cannons in the United States; they had been buried in the walls of the fort and preserved intact for over a century.
Today, the fort is open to the public. From the top of its walls, one can see Key West’s harbor and get a feeling for how it would have looked to men defending the harbor throughout the fort’s long service to the United States.
The park is also known for two other popular activities. The park is home to one of the largest beaches on Key West, and it is also a great place to watch sunset. This is particularly true if one is looking to get away from the crowds that swarm Mallory Square (though sunset at the park does not come with the same side of entertainment found at Mallory Square).
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Taylor
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