Tag Archives: ruins
Work on the Overseas Railway started in 1905 to connect Key West with the Florida East Coast Railway. A distance of 128 miles. The rail operated from 1912 to 1935, when it was destroyed by the Labor Day Hurricane, which was a Catagory 5.
The Florida East Coast Railway was already broke, so the rails were not repaired and the infrastructure was given to the state of Florida. The Overseas Roadway was then built, using much of the old rail supports, but adding a second deck in sections where the rail deck was too narrow.
At the southern tip of Key West, lies Fort Zachary Taylor. Construction started in 1845, and the fort was officially named after President Taylor, a few months after the former war hero died in office. Fort Taylor was one of three forts in Confederate territory but under Union control during the American Civil War. Fort Taylor was the base of operations for the Union’s Navy’s East Gulf Coast Blockade Squadron. The fort never saw hostile action during the war, due to its formidable defenses.
Fort Taylor saw considerable use during the Spanish-American War, as well.
The fort lost its two upper tiers during modifications for more modern weapons in 1889. The original cannons were used as fill.
Fort Taylor saw use during WWI and WWII, mainly as a training ground during the latter. The U.S. Army turned over the fort to the Navy in 1947, although Fort Taylor was once again useful during the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Naval Station Key West next door. Antennas were installed on the old fort, where cannons used to sit.
Originally, the fort was completely surrounded by water, with only a causeway leading to the island. There were 40 cisterns under the fort to collect water.
Fort Taylor has three types of cannon in its casements:
8 inch Columbiad. Fired heavy spherical shells with a heavy powder charge.
10 inch Rodman Gun. Fired spherical shot and shell.
10 inch Army Parrott Rifle. Fired 300 pound, solid, bullet shaped projectile. 15 groove, right hand twist rifling.
The fort volunteers made sure I made it to the back to see the 10 hole privy. “Beats an outhouse in Fairbanks,” I told them.
Three sides of Fort Taylor still has a moat, although the fort has been landlocked since 1965. Dredging the Key West Channel led to the fill being used around the fort.
Fort Zachary Taylor was named a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
I stopped to camp at Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park, where an ancient community once thrived. The height of it’s development was between 350-750 AD, and it’s population may have been the largest north of what is now Mexico.
Kolomoki stands near a tributary of the Chatahoochee River, and contains eight still visible mounds that were used for ceremonies and burials.
Mound A, which is also known as “Temple Mound” is the largest. It stands 56′ tall, and measured 325′ by 200′ at its base. It is believed that the mound was built by hauling basket loads of dirt and clay. It would have taken over two million basket-loads of earth to build the mound.
There have been several excavations of the mounds of Kolomoki. The Smithsonian Institution, conducted excavations between 1894 and 1897, and the best known were done by archaeologist William Sears from 1948 until 1953.
Mound D stands 20 feet high and lies out in what was “The Plaza”. This was a burial mound, and archaeologists have found the remains of 77 burials. With each burial, the mound would grow in size.
Mound G, or the Mercier Family Mound, is not a part of the park. The Mercier family owned a plantation that contained this land, and their family graveyard is atop this small mound. It has never been excavated, and it is not know if it was a mound from Kolomoki or just a rise in the Earth.
The visitor center and its museum was built in the space that was excavated from Mound E. This was also a burial mound, which was the resting place for four people. Radiocarbon dating places this mound around 170 BC.
A small theater overlooks the excavated work under the roof of the museum. A visit to the museum is worth the $5 fee. In 1974, the museum was broken into, and all of it’s artifacts were stolen. Over the years, many have been recovered mostly from Florida, but some 70 pieces remain lost, and are thought to be in the hands of private collectors.