A fort designed for war has been transformed into a peaceful oasis.
After the War of 1812, the US government sought to fortify the Key islands of Florida with the construction of fortifications.Part of the plan to secure Key West was to build lookout fortifications on the East and West sides of the island.After the land was surveyed in 1822, work was delayed for almost 40 years until the Civil War.Key West was the only Southern city that remained in Union hands during the War between the States. In the meantime, Fort Zachary Taylor had been built at the end of the island and Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas was also operational.The Martello Towers that would flank Key West were further down on the priority list.
The West Martello is where Higgs Beach is located today.Like so many fortifications of its time, it never saw battle.In fact, the West Tower was never armed with cannons.It was fitted with 2 small guns that were never fired during the Spanish-American war, and served as quarters and as a muster point for troops.Gradually, the tower fell into disrepair.It was used for gunnery practice from Ft Taylor and by the 1870s, it became a source of free bricks for those looking to build in the city.
After World War II, all army facilities on Key West were released to Monroe County.By 1949 a debate arose among those who wanted to preserve the Fort and those who thought it was an eyesore.The preservationists, led by Representative Joe Allen won.Fort Martello was placed on the Florida Register of Historic Places, and the Key West Garden Club was given a lend/lease agreement to repair, occupy and maintain the ruins of the West Martello.
Now, 200 years after the site was first proposed for fortifications, the Garden Club runs an attractive sanctuary for visitors to Higgs Beach.The gardens, arranged among the ruins of the fort, include orchids, succulents, native plants, and a butterfly garden.Admission is free, and it is well worth a visit for a breather from the hectic pace of Duval Street, or to enhance your appreciation of tropical flora.Most of the spaces are wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly.Special events are held in the gardens, so check ahead before you go.
Peter Evans FL Key West Feb 12, 2023 Beaches Gardens RE
Location: Key West, FL
Peter Evans Feb 12, 2023
Share Key West Garden Club Higgs Beach West Martello