East and West Martello Towers

In 1862, the Union military began construction on two fortifications, known as the East and West Martello Towers, on the south shore of Key West to provide defensive support to Fort Zachary Taylor. The West Martello Tower was built about one and one-half miles east of Fort Taylor, and the East Martello Tower is located two miles east of the West Tower. Construction continued throughout the Civil War years. The masonry work was substantially completed by the end of the war, but the outer works were never finished and no armament was installed. The wartime development of rifled artillery rendered such masonry fortifications obsolete, and by 1866 construction of the original plans was suspended. In 1947, the structures were declared surplus by the U.S. Army and sold to Monroe County, which later leased East Martello to the Key West Art & Historical Society and West Martello to the Key West Garden Club. East Martello is operated as a museum with a large collection of Key West artifacts, historical records, and military memorabilia including Civil War objects. At West Martello, a permanent horticultural exhibit on the grounds is maintained by the Garden Club. Of the two fortifications, the East Martello Tower has retained more of its Civil War appearance and has essentially survived in the form of its original construction, while the West Martello Tower was modified by the military during the Spanish American War and later periods.