Fort East Martello
Key West, Florida
Visited 5.10.17
I first discovered Martello Towers some years ago when researching starforts for this very website, and I'll admit that I held a pretty dim view of the concept. Of course I had nothing but disdain for any form of fortification that wasn't a 100%, bonafied, by-God starfort...but my perspective has fortunately broadened some since I started this site in 2010.

I came to Key West in May of 2017 primarily for the stellar Fort Jefferson and Fort Zachary Taylor, two starforts whose pedigree nobody could dispute, but was pleased to find this mini-fort also there waiting for me.
Fort East Martello it is today the home of the East Martello Museum, which in turn is the home of Robert the Doll. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Robert the Doll, rest assured that the subject will be covered in this gallery. I wasn't expecting much of a fort experience at this location, but more of a Robert experience.

My goodness but I was pleasantly surprised. Built when it was (1862-1865) and how it was, structurally Fort East Martello has a great deal in common with contemporary polygonal forts Fort Clinch and Fort Gaines.
The tower itself, a squat, two-story brick edifice, seems more like a citadel or redoubt than a tower...which somehow makes it more palatable to the stubbornly starfort-obsessed mind...and the casemated gun positions that face the sea are straight out of dozens of starforts I've visited.

In fact, Fort East Martello is ultimately more starfortlike than just about any other American fortification built during the Civil War, virtually all which were earthworky in nature. Add it all up, and this made for an excitedly jittery romp through a delightful masonry fort!
Oh yeah, and there's a museum! East Martello Museum displays many artifacts from Key West's history, which were also way more interesting than I thought they'd be, and integrates plenty of great signing about the fort itself and how the Civil War played out on Key West.

And then there's Papio. Stanley Papio (1914-1982) was a Key West resident, junkyard artist, and probably an incredibly weird person. His huge, engaging art is scattered throughout the fort, and a large section on the fort's eastern side has a dedicated gallery of his work.
Admission to the fort slash museum is $10, although my intrepid starforting niece flashed her student ID and got in for $5. East Martello Museum has an excellent gift shop (no pictures please), which at least partially made up for Fort Zachary Taylor's complete and utter lack of a gift shop, which had so confounded me upon my visit there earlier in the day. And, despite Key West International Airport being literally right next door, my visit to Fort East Martello was as undeafening as it was breathtaking.

There is also a West Martello Tower, which I visited right after this one. While less noteworthy from a fortification point of view (very little of it was completed before the end of the war), it is today a beautiful garden center, and is represented by some pix at the end of this gallery.
Please click on any of the images on this page to see it's full-sized version, plus read more of my witty observations.