There are two Martello Towers East and West.
The West Martello tower was built in 1862 on a site which historic research shows had been a burial ground for almost 300 African slaves. It was a part of the fortifications of Key West, which included Fort Taylor.
It was never involved in an actual war, but in 1873, the Fort Taylor gunners were using it for target practice. They stopped in 1921 when Key West's first (and only) beachfront hotel (Casa Marina) was built just south of the tower. But the damage had been done - many of its Romanesque arches had fallen and the watchtower was leveled. Rubble, bricks and slate flooring littered the beach. It was an eyesore that the county wanted to demolish
Today the Tower is operated by The Key West Garden Club, and hosts the Joe Allen Garden Center (small admission charge), offering self-guided tours to explore local flora and enjoy the tropical settings. Open Tues-Sat 9:30 to 3:15 - Donation requested
This was truly a "Secret Garden" serendipitous find! My husband was out bird watching, and passed this location at the beginning of Smathers Beach. The fact there was no admission charge got him in the door - the beauty he found inside got him to bring me there.
The West Martello Tower is one of three remaining Civil War era structures in Key West (the other two being Fort Zachary Taylor and the East Martello Museum - home of Robert the Doll). It is now home to the Key West Garden Club. Inside there are lots of beautiful gardens and areas - views of the beach when you get to the top - and a self-sustaining rain garden. The variety of plants and flowers was incredible, and just so pretty.
There is no admission charge to visit; however, if you enjoy your visit (and I'm sure you will) they will happily accept your donations in the wooden box just inside the entry door.
The Garden Club of Key West has preserved this Civil War Fort and National Historic Site. Open year-round, Tuesday thru Saturday, 9:30 AM to 3:15PM. A Non-Profit organization, they reley on donations.
This was free (we liked it so much we gave a donation).
One of the most tranquil, and beautiful spots in Key West!
My mom and dad visited West Martello tower when we lived in Key West in the 60's, and I took a photo of them with this big cactus.
The tower was in ruins when we were there because the gunners at Fort Taylor used to use it for target practice.
Excerpts from a gardening magazine:
"Then-County-Commissioner Allen, a Key West native,.. proceeded to sway the Powers That Be from leveling the martello..."
“I started planting trees, Key limes of course,” said Rep. Allen..."
"In 1955, Allen negotiated with the Key West Garden Club, and West Martello Tower became the club’s official home in 1959. It was named a Florida National Historic Site, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. "
Looking out to the sea. This was top five on most beautiful spots in Key West. A winding garden path up to a gazebo (with shell gingerbread trim), overlooking the ocean. It was quiet, and peaceful. A fitting spot dedicated to the lady who worked so hard to preserve the fort and gardens.
Photo: Michael Sullivan