Fort Zachary Taylor State Historic Site
P.O. Box 6560
Key West, FL 33041
Fort Zachary Taylor is a perfect example of the wealth of history Florida has to offer. The park, which now covers a total of 87 acres, is a National Landmark that played a significant role in Florida's early development.
Construction of the fort began in 1845, shortly after Florida became a state. In 1850, the fort was named after U.S. President Zachary Taylor, who died in office earlier that year. Throughout the 1850s, construction on Fort Taylor was slow. Yellow fever, shortages of material and men, remoteness and hurricanes had slowed down progress.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Capt. John Brannon occupied the fort, placing it in Union hands. Key West was an important outpost for the Union because numerous blockade-running ships were detained at Key West harbor and guarded by Fort Taylor's cannons. The 10-inch Rodman and Columbiad cannons at the fort had a range of three miles. This was an impressive deterrent to the Confederate navy, preventing them from attempting to take the fort or the island of Key West. Proving to be a severe loss for the South, Fort Taylor remained in Union hands throughout the Civil War. By the time the three-story fort was finally finished in 1866 (21 years after it was begun), there were many impressive features included. Items such as sanitary facilities flushed by the tide and a desalination plant which produced drinking water from the sea were available as early as 1861. A total of 198 guns and a large supply of ammunition were on hand to secure the fort.
In the years that followed, Fort Taylor was again used during the Spanish-American War. In 1889, in an effort to modernize the fort, the top levels were cut down to install newer weapons. Further remodeling also included the addition of Battery Osceola and Battery Adair on the inside of the fort.
With the coming of the 20th century, more sophisticated weapons and eventually radar and other devices took the place of guns. By 1947, the Army turned Fort Taylor over to the Navy to maintain.
Beginning in 1968, through the tireless efforts of volunteers, excavations for old armaments in the gun rooms uncovered a number of guns and ammunition from Civil War times. This represents only a fraction of the buried arsenal, which is the largest collection of Civil War cannons in the U.S. In recognition of this, Fort Taylor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Two years later, the fort was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Recreational activities include a beach area bordering the Atlantic Ocean that gives park visitors an excellent place for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.
The area along the west side of the park is ideal for fishing. The main ship channel is approximately 33-feet deep and provides the angler with access to a variety of saltwater fish. Saltwater fishing licenses are required in Florida.
Shaded picnic areas are available for visitors to enjoy their catch of the day. These areas include tables, grills and several outside shower and bathhouse facilities.
Guided tours are available daily. Please inquire at Ranger Station for tour times.
Hours of Operation
Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year. However, the fort itself closes to the public at 5 p.m. A fee of $4 per vehicle is charged.
Fort Zachary Taylor is located at the end of Southard Street on Truman Annex in Key West.