(Note: First posted 7.26.12)


Above: A recent installment of Waterways features preservation efforts at Fort Jefferson.

For vacation one summer, when we lived in the south, we took a trip down through Florida, checking out the freshwater snorkeling spots inland, beaches on the Atlantic side and a few old forts.
We swung through old Saint Augustine on a whim and stumbled across the magnificent Castillo de San Marcos.
Perhaps my favorite was Fort Matanzas , a tiny outpost on a small barrier island that guarded Saint Augustine’s back door. The fort is a 30-foot-tall tower containing a gun deck, soldiers’ and officers’ quarters topped by an observation deck. Under the gun deck is a reservoir that collected fresh rain water.
Today, visitors take a short boat ride to the island and tour the fort.
Regretfully, one of the forts we didn’t get a chance to see was Fort Jackson on Dry Tortugas , which is way out past the tip of Florida’s Keys and only reachable by boat or seaplane.
According to the National Park Service, Fort Jefferson is the largest all-masonry fort in the United States. Construction began in 1846 and continued until 1889, when the government pulled the plug before it was finished. Technology had advanced to the point that Fort Jefferson was obsolete, and it was shuttered without ever firing a shot.
But the effort wasn’t a waste, because the fort lives on today as a national park. In recent years, park staff, masons, conservation specialists and the 482nd Civil Engineers Squadron from Homestead Air Reserve Base have been undertaking projects to preserve. Above is a 25-minute (give or take) YouTube video about the restoration.The above National Park Service links have neat info about the forts,especially the Matanzas site, which includes an interactive map. A Wikipedia list of other forts in Florida is here. (7.26.12)
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