East Martello Fort Museum, Key West
The Martello Forts (along with Fort Taylor) were part of the defense for Key West. They never saw combat. Today, however, it serves as a museum with historical exhibits of the 19th to 20th century. Among the latter are relics of the U.S.S. Maine, and a Cuban refugee raft. Artifacts in the collection have began to reflect Key West’s early cigar manufacturing, salvaging, sponging, and turtling industries. Photographs, documents, and artifacts of writers who lived in Key West were added to the collection, including items relating to Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, Thelma Strabel, Benedict Thielen, David Kaufelt, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Hersey, Richard Wilbur, John Ciardi and many others.
There are two Martello Towers East and West. The West Martello Tower is the Garden Club tower which isn't really a museum. The East Martello Tower is the one that has a museum in it. As a Civil War citadel this spot never saw any action. Outside the fort there is a garden and there is a tower that you can climb to get a view out over the Atlantic (and the airport). That wasn't there when we were living in Key West in 1961 and 1968 because it was not restored until 1983, when it was replaced according to the 1860’s plans. Attention to the brickwork and rooftop is still continually required in order to combat the damage caused by wind, rain, and the occasional hurricane. - There is also a playhouse
Hours sometimes flunctuate - call in advance
Children (age 6 and up): $5
Children under 6: FREE
Students with ID: $5
Seniors (62+), AAA Travelers,
and Locals with ID: $8
Llst admission 4.
east martello is a small civil war era brick fort located near smathers beach. by the time the fort was finished it was considered obsolete and was never fitted with guns. it is now a museum operated by the key west art and historical society. on display at the museum are relics from the USS maine, old key west artifacts, and a art gallery. east martello is also home to robert the doll. this 19th century sailor doll is considered to be haunted. an interesting place to visit when in key west.
This museum is right by the Key West airport. It is probably best known because it houses Robert the Doll. Robert is one of the most popular "ghost" stories on the island. Legend has it that 105 years ago, a nanny who practiced Santaria gave this 3 1/2 foot tall doll to the boy she cared for. It was to protect him and also to get revenge on the family who treated her like a slave and beat her. The doll was blamed for every bad thing that every happened around the boy and he kept it with him until he left home to go to art school. The story goes that the doll walked around and wreaked havoc on anyone who lived in the home. Now Robert is encased in glass at the museum and is surrounded by letters written by tourists who took his picture w/o permission or made fun of him. They had really bad luck or their camera batteries would die, etc.
Stranger than fiction: my friend's camera malfunctioned immediately after photographing Robert. Her aperture was stuck halfway open in all of the pictures after Robert until she left the building. Then it went back to normal.
The museum also has the more traditional history of Key West and art by local artists. It was originally a fort but before it was completed, masonry forts became obsolete and it was never finished.
East Martello Museum is a must-see for history buffs, and for anyone deeply interested in the character and history of Key West. The Tower was built as a fort in the late 1800's, but never really finished because the round-shaped tower became obsolete during the construction period. The walls are eight feet thick: it would have made a lovely fortress, but alas it was never armed. Today, the thick brick walls make an excellent backdrop for art and museum pieces from the Key West Art and Historical Society. Featured are wood carvings by Key West's Mario Sanchez and metal sculptures another local Keys artist. You will also find Robert the Doll here. This doll has an interesting haunted story with him...
East Martello Museum is open every day from 9:30am to 5pm.