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Fort Zachary Taylor
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Outside view of Fort Zachary Taylor, showing the moat.
Location: Monroe County, Florida, USA
Nearest city: Key West, Florida
Coordinates: 24°32′52″N 81°48′35″W / 24.54778°N 81.80972°W / 24.54778; -81.80972Coordinates: 24°32′52″N 81°48′35″W / 24.54778°N 81.80972°W / 24.54778; -81.80972
Governing body: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Added to NRHP: March 11, 1971

71000244[1]

Designated NHL: May 31, 1973[2]

The Fort Zachary Taylor State Historic Site, better known simply as Fort Taylor, (or Fort Zach to locals), is a Florida State Park and National Historic Landmark centered on a Civil War-era fort located near the southern tip of Key West, Florida.

Contents

History of Fort Zachary Taylor

Fort Taylor, Florida by Seth Eastman (1808-1875)

1845-1900

Construction of the fort began in 1845 as part of a mid-1800s plan to defend the southeast coast through a series of forts. The fort was named for United States President Zachary Taylor in 1850, a few months after President Taylor's sudden death in office. Yellow fever epidemics and material shortages slowed construction of the fort, which continued throughout the 1850s. At the outset of the U.S. Civil War in 1861, Union Captain John Milton Brannan seized control of the fort, preventing it from falling into Confederate hands and using it as an outpost to threaten blockade runners. Originally, the fort was surrounded by water on all sides, with a walkway linking it to the mainland. The fort was completed in 1866, although the upper level of one side was destroyed in 1889 to make way for more modern weapons, with the older cannons being buried within the new outer wall to save on materials. The fort was heavily used again during the 1898 Spanish-American War.

1900-present

Central Yard of Fort Zachary Taylor in January 2006.

In 1947, the fort, no longer of use to the Army, was turned over to the U.S. Navy for maintenance. In 1968 volunteers led by Howard S. England excavated Civil War guns and ammunition buried in long-abandoned parts of the fort, which was soon discovered to house the nation's largest collection of Civil War cannons. Fort Taylor was therefore placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973. Due to the filling in of land around the fort, including the creation of an attractive stretch of beach, the park now occupies 87 acres (352,000 m²).

Truman Annex

The Fort's land that is closer to downtown Key West became part of the Truman Annex to Naval Station Key West, which is about three miles to the northwest. The Annex was originally called the "Fort Zachary Taylor Annex" and it included a submarine base.

President Harry S. Truman used it for his Winter White House for 175 days in 11 visits. The Secret Service had a private beach built on the land for the president's security, but he reportedly only visited it once, preferring the public beaches. The beach name is called "Truman Beach" The fort and its related support buildings was later renamed for Truman.

The Annex was decommissioned in 1974 because the U.S. Navy had decommissioned nearly all of their diesel-electric submarines and contemporary nuclear powered submarines were too big for the existing port. The then-former Naval Station served as the landing point for many during the 1980 Mariel boatlift of Cuban refugees. Most of the buildings in the Annex were sold to private developers although there's a museum for the Truman White House and the Navy continues to own and maintain the piers and a portion of the Naval Station property to the south of Fort Taylor, primarily in support of Joint Interagency Task Force - East and the Naval Security Group Activity.

Current uses

In addition to the role of the fort and its adjacent beach as tourist attractions, Fort Taylor is also the location of a number of annual events, including week-long Civil War reenactments. On the weekend preceding Halloween, it is transformed into a haunted fort, much like a haunted house but on a grand scale and with a distinctive Civil War theme.

References

External links

Coordinates: 24°32′52″N 81°48′35″W / 24.547669°N 81.809692°W / 24.547669; -81.809692


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