The U.S. Army started construction on two identical forts in Key West in 1862 due to concerns of Confederate attacks on the city by sea. East and West Martello were composed of central 36 foot tall citadels surrounded by thick brick walls. A complex design of vaulted ceilings were employed to allow each citadel’s roof to hold heavy artillery. Construction on both forts was halted in 1866, without either of them being completed. East and West Martello played roles in the Spanish American War and both World Wars, but were eventually declared surplus. In 1950, the Key West Art and Historical Society obtained East Martello and upgraded the structure to allow its use as a museum. The fort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
Deferred maintenance and the waterfront location in this hurricane prone part of Florida has taken its toll over the years. The fort’s exterior has seen an incredible amount of deterioration, including broken and spalled bricks and missing mortar. Much of the fort was repointed in the past with mortars that were too hard or soft, exacerbating the situation. SPS repointed prioritized areas of the walls.