Built to protect the Florida Keys from a Confederate attack, this towering fort is today home to historic relics and intriguing works of 20th-century art.
The Florida Keys’ Civil War legacy can be discovered at this 19th-century fortress turned art gallery. Fort East Martello was constructed in 1860 to protect the Union-controlled Florida Keys from a Confederate attack. Interestingly, despite being under the leadership of the Union, the majority of Key West residents were Confederate supporters. While a battle never broke out in the area, the Fort East Martello is still considered an important part of America’s Civil War history. Explore the complex to see the significant works of architecture, hundreds of relics and an expanding collection of folk art and contemporary works.
Since 1950 the fort has been operated by the Key West Art & Historical Society. Admire the extraordinary restoration efforts undertaken by the society as you wander around the fort’s perimeter. The fort has been returned to its original 1860s plan. Walk through the expansive collection of civil war memorabilia, including guns, uniforms and paintings. See the original industries of Key West, including wrecking and cigar manufacturing, return to life before your eyes as you explore the exhibits.
Among the most impressive attractions of the fort is the museum’s collection of local art. See the stunning work of Mario Sanchez, a local folk artist who was responsible for more than 600 iconic paintings and woodcarvings of the local area. Continue through the gallery to find the metal sculptures of Stanley Papio.
If you’ve embarked on one of Key West’s many ghost tours you’re sure to have heard about Robert the Haunted Doll. Since 2014 Robert has called the fort home and has become one of the major attractions to the fort.
Fort East Martello Museum and Gallery is located approximately 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the center of Key West, immediately adjacent to the Key West International Airport, and is best reached by car or taxi. A free parking lot is provided by the Key West Art & Historical Society. A public bus also services the fort. The museum is closed on Christmas Day and an admission fee applies.