Tag Archives: FL

10-31-19 – Castillo de San Marco National Monument


The Castillo de San Marcos (Spanish for “St. Mark’s Castle”) is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States; it is located on the western shore of Matanzas Bay in the city of St. Augustine, Florida. The Castillo was designed by the Spanish engineer Ignacio Daza, with construction beginning in 1672, 107 years after the city’s founding by Spanish Admiral and conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, when Florida was part of the Spanish Empire. The fort’s construction was ordered by Governor Francisco de la Guerra y de la Vega after a raid by the English privateer Robert Searles in 1668 that destroyed much of St. Augustine and damaged the existing wooden fort. Work proceeded under the administration of Guerra’s successor, Manuel de Cendoya in 1671, and the first coquina stones were laid in 1672. The construction of the core of the current fortress was completed in 1695, though it would undergo many alterations and renovations over the centuries.

When Britain gained control of Florida in 1763 pursuant to the Treaty of Paris, St. Augustine became the capital of British East Florida, and the fort was renamed Fort St. Mark until the Peace of Paris (1783) when Florida was transferred back to Spain and the fort’s original name restored. In 1819, Spain signed the Adams–Onís Treaty which ceded Florida to the United States in 1821; consequently the fort was designated a United States Army base and renamed Fort Marion, in honor of American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion. The fort was declared a National Monument in 1924, and after 251 years of continuous military possession, was deactivated in 1933. The 20.48-acre (8.29 ha) site was subsequently turned over to the United States National Park Service. In 1942 the original name, Castillo de San Marcos, was restored by an Act of Congress.

Castillo de San Marcos was attacked several times and twice besieged: first by English colonial forces led by Carolina Colony Governor James Moore in 1702, and then by English Georgia colonial Governor James Oglethorpe in 1740, but was never taken by force. However, possession of the fort has changed six times, all peaceful, among four different governments: Spain, 1695–1763 and 1783–1821, Kingdom of Great Britain, 1763–1783, and the United States of America), 1821–date (during 1861–1865, under control of the Confederate States of America).

Under United States control the fort was used as a military prison to incarcerate members of Native American tribes starting with the Seminole—including the famous war chief, Osceola, in the Second Seminole War—and members of western tribes, including Geronimo’s band of Chiricahua Apache. The Native American art form known as Ledger Art had its origins at the fort during the imprisonment of members of the Plains tribes such as Howling Wolf of the southern Cheyenne.

Ownership of the Castillo was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933, and it has been a popular tourist destination since then.

Source: Wikipedia

10-31-19 – Fort Matanzas National Monument


Fort Matanzas National Monument was designated a United States National Monument on October 15, 1924. The monument consists of a 1740 Spanish fort called Fort Matanzas, and about 100 acres (0.4 km²) of salt marsh and barrier islands along the Matanzas River on the northern Atlantic coast of Florida. It is operated by the National Park Service in conjunction with the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in the city of St. Augustine.

Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1742 to guard Matanzas Inlet, the southern mouth of the Matanzas River, which could be used as a rear entrance to the city of St. Augustine. Such an approach avoided St. Augustine’s primary defense system, centered at Castillo de San Marcos. In 1740, Gov. James Oglethorpe of Georgia used the inlet to blockade St. Augustine and launch a thirty-nine-day siege. St. Augustine endured the siege, but the episode convinced the Spanish that protecting the inlet was necessary to the security of the town. Under Gov. Manuel de Montiano’s orders, construction of the fort began that year and was completed in 1742. Engineer Pedro Ruiz de Olano, who had worked on additions to the Castillo de San Marcos, designed the fortified observation tower. Convicts, slaves, and troops from Cuba were used as labor to erect the structure, which was sited on present-day Rattlesnake Island and had a commanding position over Matanzas Inlet.

The fort, known to the Spanish as Torre de Matanzas (Matanzas Tower), is a masonry structure made of coquina, a common shellstone building material in the area. The marshy terrain was stabilized by a foundation of pine pilings to accommodate a building 50 feet (15 m) long on each side with a 30-foot (9.1 m) high tower. The standard garrison of the fort was one officer in charge, four infantrymen, and two gunners, though more troops could be stationed if necessary. All soldiers at Fort Matanzas served on rotation from their regular duty in St. Augustine. Five cannon were placed at the fort—four six-pounders and one eighteen-pounder. All guns could reach the inlet, which at the time was less than half a mile away.

In 1742, as the fort was nearing completion, the British under Oglethorpe approached the inlet with twelve ships. Cannon fire drove off the scouting boats, and the warships left without engaging the fort. This brief encounter was the only time Fort Matanzas fired on an enemy. Spain lost control of Florida with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, and regained control with the 1783 Treaty of Paris. With the Spanish Empire falling apart, Spain spent little effort maintaining the fort after this time. When the United States took control of Florida in 1821, the fort had deteriorated to the point where soldiers could not live inside. The United States never used the fort and it became a ruin.

Fort Matanzas was named for the inlet, which acquired its name after the executions, or matanzas (Spanish: slaughters), on its north shore, of Jean Ribault and his band of Huguenot Frenchmen, the last of the Fort Caroline colonists, by the Spanish in 1565

Source: Wikipedia

10-30-19 – Kennedy Space Center


The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC, originally known as the NASA Launch Operations Center) is one of ten National Aeronautics and Space Administration field centers. Since December 1968, KSC has been NASA’s primary launch center of human spaceflight. Launch operations for the Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs were carried out from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 and managed by KSC. Located on the east coast of Florida, KSC is adjacent to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). The management of the two entities work very closely together, share resources, and even own facilities on each other’s property.

Though the first Apollo flights and all Project Mercury and Project Gemini flights took off from CCAFS, the launches were managed by KSC and its previous organization, the Launch Operations Directorate. Starting with the fourth Gemini mission, the NASA launch control center in Florida (Mercury Control Center, later the Launch Control Center) began handing off control of the vehicle to the Mission Control Center in Houston, shortly after liftoff; in prior missions it held control throughout the entire mission.

Additionally, the center manages launch of robotic and commercial crew missions and researches food production and In-Situ Resource Utilization for off-Earth exploration. Since 2010, the center has worked to become a multi-user spaceport through industry partnerships, even adding a new launch pad (LC-39C) in 2015.

There are about 700 facilities and buildings grouped across the center’s 144,000 acres (580 km2). Among the unique facilities at KSC are the 525-foot (160 m) tall Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking NASA’s largest rockets, the Launch Control Center, which conducts space launches at KSC, the Operations and Checkout Building, which houses the astronauts dormitories and suit-up area, a Space Station factory, and a 3-mile (4.8 km) long Shuttle Landing Facility. There is also a Visitor Complex open to the public on site.

Source: Wikipedia

10-29-19 – Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory


The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory located at 1316 Duval Street, Key West, Florida, United States is a butterfly park that houses from 50 to 60 different species of live butterflies from around the world in a climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitat.

The conservatory includes flowering plants, cascading waterfalls and trees. There are also several species of free flying “butterfly friendly” birds, such as red-factor canaries, zebra finches, cordon-blue finches and “button” or Chinese painted quail.

There is a learning center where guests can get a close up view of a variety of live caterpillars feeding and developing on their host plants.

Souce: Wikipedia

10-28-19 – Key West Aquarium

The Key West Aquarium is the only public aquarium in Key West, Florida, United States. It is located at 1 Whitehead Street and is marked by Historic Marker 52.

Built between 1932 and 1934, the Key West Aquarium is one of Florida’s oldest aquariums. Original admission was 15 cents for adults and 5 cents for children.

The aquarium was conceived by Dr. Robert Van Deusen, the Director of the Fairmount Park Aquarium in Philadelphia. The aquarium was originally an open air aquarium, one of the first and largest at the time.

During the Great Depression, Key West turned over its charter to the federal government due to the economic disaster that hit the island. The federal government believed that Key West’s weather and location would make it an ideal tourist destination. The Works Project Administration (WPA) was sent in and built the tourist attraction.

The aquarium is home to exhibits on alligators, atlantic shore fish, jellyfish, sharks, sea turtles, and a touch tank.

Source: Wikipedia

10-28-19 – Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park


The Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, better known simply as Fort Taylor (or Fort Zach to locals) is a Florida State Park and National Historic Landmark centered on a Civil War-era fort located near the southern tip of Key West, Florida.

1845–1900
Construction of the fort began in 1845 as part of a mid-19th century plan to defend the southeast coast through a series of forts after the War of 1812. Thompson Island, at the southwest tip of Key West, was selected as the site for the fort in 1822 and plans for the fort, drawn up by Simon Bernard and Joseph G. Totten, were approved in 1836. Two supporting batteries, Martello Towers, provided additional coverage, one of which exists today as the Martello Gallery-Key West Art and Historical Museum. The fort was named for United States President Zachary Taylor in November 1850, a few months after President Taylor’s sudden death in office. The fort’s foundation consists of oolitic limestone and New England granite. Its five-foot thick walls rose 50 feet above mean low water, and included two tiers of casemates plus a terreplein or barbette at the top. Three seaward curtains 495 feet between bastions, each containing 42 guns on three levels, were augmented by a land facing gorge. Troop barracks were built into this gorge with a capacity for 800 men. At either end of the barracks was a large gunpowder magazine while a Sally port was located in the center, connected to land by a 1200-foot causeway. Rainwater was collected in underground cisterns along the perimeter of the fort. Yellow fever epidemics and material shortages slowed construction of the fort, which continued throughout the 1850s. The Pensacola, Florida firm of Raiford and Abercrombie provided the bricks for Fort Zachary Taylor and Fort Jefferson, which was also under construction at the same time.

At the outset of the U.S. Civil War on 13 Jan. 1861, Union Captain John Milton Brannan, moved his 44 men of the First U.S. Artillery from Key West Barracks to Fort Taylor. His orders were to prevent the fort from falling into Confederate hands. The fort then became a key outpost to threaten blockade runners. Major William H. French arrived in April with his artillery unit.

In 1898, the fort was reduced down to the second floor and Battery Osceola was added to the south casemate. The battery consisted of two 12 inch artillery pieces. The Civil War-era pieces were used as fill, being buried within the new battery to save on materials. Battery Adair was added to the west casemate and included four 3-inch, 15-pounder Rapid Fire rifles.

The fort was heavily used again during the 1898 Spanish–American War, World Wars I and II, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In 1947, the fort, no longer of use to the U.S. Army, was turned over to the U.S. Navy for maintenance. In 1968, volunteers led by Howard S. England excavated Civil War guns and ammunition buried in long-abandoned parts of the fort, which was soon discovered to house the nation’s largest collection of Civil War cannons. Fort Taylor was therefore placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973. Due to the filling in of land around the fort, including the creation of an attractive stretch of beach, the park now occupies 87 acres (352,000 m²).

Source: Wikipedia

10-28-19 – West Martello Tower Garden Club


Key West was the only southern city allied with the Federal government during the Civil War. This is where the presence of Fort Zachary Taylor and both East and West Martello Towers originated. Fort Zach is located at the southwestern tip of the island, while West Martello is found along the southern coast at Higgs Beach and East Martello is located near the airport.

Fort Zach began construction in 1845 and was completed 21 years later in 1866. The construction of the Martello Towers also took considerable time. In 1836, Colonel Joseph Gilmore Totten originally planned to build nine forts in Key West. Due to budget, this was revised to one fort, being Fort Zach, and two advanced batteries, being the Martellos. It would take nearly 30 years before construction began on the towers. The West Martello battery was completed in 1863, but work ceased in 1873 and the tower was never armed. It became a quarry for residents.

In 1878, two small guns were installed and the tower was used during the Spanish American War for quartering troops, storage, signaling and lookout. During World War II, it was used for radio stations and as an anti-aircraft battery.

By 1947, all Army personnel were released from the island and the two towers were turned over as property of Monroe County. Meanwhile, Fort Zach remained would property of the Navy.

Two years later, when the tower was threatened by demolition, the Key West Garden Club stepped in to preserve the historic site. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and today serves a one-of-a-kind Key West attraction for both history and horticulture buffs.

Source: trollytours.com

10-25-19 – Key West Fantasy Fest Masquerade March


The Masquerade March is a grown-up moving cocktail & dance party that begins at the Frances Street entrance of the Key West Cemetery. This moving mosaic of costumed revelers strut their wacky costumes on a route that winds its way north to Fleming Street stopping at participating guest houses, which – while supplies last – hand out complimentary beverages.

10-24_29-19 – Key West


A throwback to easier times before Covid-19, when I made a coast-to-coast roadtrip to spend time with dear old friends on Key West in the sunshine state.

Key West, a U.S. island city, is part of the Florida Keys archipelago. It’s also Florida’s southernmost point, lying roughly 90 miles north of Cuba. Famed for its pastel-hued, conch-style houses, it’s a cruise-ship stop also accessible from the mainland via the Overseas Highway. It’s known more for its coral reefs – destinations for diving and snorkeling – than for its beaches.

10-23-19 – Dry Tortugas National Park


Dry Tortugas National Park is a national park in the United States about 68 miles (109 km) west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. The park preserves Fort Jefferson and the seven Dry Tortugas islands, the westernmost and most isolated of the Florida Keys. The archipelago’s coral reefs are the least disturbed of the Florida Keys reefs.

The park is noted for abundant sea life, tropical bird breeding grounds, colorful coral reefs, and legends of shipwrecks and sunken treasures. The park’s centerpiece is Fort Jefferson, a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. Fort Jefferson is the largest brick masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, and is composed of more than 16 million bricks. Among United States forts it is exceeded in size only by Fort Monroe, Virginia, and Fort Adams, Rhode Island. Dry Tortugas is unique in its combination of a largely undisturbed tropical ecosystem with significant historic artifacts. The park is accessible only by seaplane or boat and has averaged about 63,000 visitors annually in the period from 2008 to 2017. Activities include snorkeling, picnicking, birdwatching, camping, scuba diving, saltwater fishing and kayaking.

Dry Tortugas National Park is part of the Everglades & Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve, established by UNESCO in 1976 under its Man and the Biosphere Programme.