Construction began in 1862 by the U.S. Army on this Civil War Fort and Tower in order to provide extra protection for Key West and defend against the possibility of a Confederate sea assault.
While Key West remained a Union-controlled island during the Civil War, the majority of Key West citizens supported the Confederacy. With such a rift, it is perhaps surprising that no battles took place on or around the island. Having no use for the Fort once the war was drawing to a close, Fort East Martello was abandoned in its unfinished state by the Army.
In 1950, the Key West Art & Historical Society, with its own army of volunteers, cleared away years of debris and dust to open Fort East Martello as its first museum. With continued community support, the Society restored this national landmark in accordance with its original 1860s design. Today, visitors can explore the preserved battlement’s collection of relics from the Civil War, learn about the wrecking and cigar-manufacturing industries which shaped the Florida Keys, view the unique folk art of Mario Sanchez and the imaginative metal sculptures of Stanley Papio, as well as meet the Ghosts of East Martello, including the infamous Robert the Doll.