The Evolution of Fort Zachary Taylor

Fort Zachary Taylor was originally built a quarter of a mile out to sea from Key West, on a shoal of hard rocks ten feet below the surface. The surrounding water formed a natural barrier of defense from Key West, since you had to pass through a drawbridge to get to the Sally port. The drawbridge would be raised if there was an attack on the fort, thus sealing off the fort from outsiders. Today, Fort Taylor is connected to Key West via land (it’s actually part of Key West now, and you can’t tell it was ever separated by water). The Navy dredged a canal and put the deposits around the fort, forming the park and connecting it to Key West. The new land created by dredging is now part of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The Park Service built a moat around the fort in the meantime, to preserve the original idea of the fort surrounded by water.

The US Army occupied Fort Taylor from 1845 up until 1947, when it turned it over to the Navy. The Navy used Fort Taylor to store equipment. In 1968, local historian Howard England began to restore the fort. He did this for eight years, after which the fort was turned over to Florida State Parks. In 1971, partly through the efforts and leadership of Howard England, Fort Zachary Taylor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. in 1973, the fort became a National Historic Landmark.

Today, visitors to Fort Zachary Taylor National Park can enjoy a beach that faces the Atlantic Ocean, a fishing area, picnic areas with grills, and shower and bathhouse facilities. There’s a concession stand that sells things like hot dogs, nachos, sandwhiches and ice cream bars. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the Fort, or just wander around at their own pace.

Fort Taylor Interior
Fort Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor Gatling Gun
Fort Zachary Taylor Moat
Sculpture at Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor