Composed of over 16 million bricks, Fort Jefferson in Florida is the largest abandoned brick structure in North America

Composed of over 16 million bricks, Fort Jefferson in Florida is the largest abandoned brick structure in North America
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Composed of over 16 million bricks, Fort Jefferson in Florida is the largest abandoned brick structure in North America

The abandoned Jefferson Fort is one of the largest and most complex coastal fortifications in the US.

Fort Jefferson from the air.
Fort Jefferson from the air.
The perimeter of the entire structure is surrounded by a moat and then walkway.
The perimeter of the entire structure is surrounded by a moat and then a walkway.

There are more than sixteen million bricks in this beautiful Fort. In the lower Florida Keys in the Dry Tortugas National Park, 110 kilometers west of Key West Island, the fortress located on the Garden Key.

The construction of the huge fort began in 1846 and lasted for 30 years.

Even though the construction of a rifled cannon and armored ship was underway, Fort Jefferson was obsolete. However much of the construction of the fortress was done by enslaved laborers during the years before the civil war.

Therefore, in 1847, one of the bravest attempts every made to escape slavery was made by seven workers at the fort. However, commandeering or disabling as several schooners and boats as they could, they set out from Garden Key in a frantic attempt to sail away to freedom.

Fort Jefferson was built to protect one of the most strategic deepwater anchorages in North America
Fort Jefferson was built to protect one of the most strategic deepwater anchorages in North America

The good-looking islands still do not exhibit any standing freshwater or even seasonal streams, therefore the name “dry”. Owing to the potential difficulties of survival in such conditions, one of these islands was used as the location for filming a military survival film used to train aircraft personnel.

The Fort Jefferson design called for a four-tiered six-sided 1000 heavy-gun fort, with two sides measuring 415 feet, and four sides measuring 564 feet.

Hot Shot Oven at Fort Jefferson. The oven seen here was designed to heat solid cannon shot to be fired at attacking ships.
Hot Shot Oven at Fort Jefferson. The oven seen here was designed to heat solid cannon shot to be fired at attacking ships.
In July of 1865, the fort became the prison for three of the men convicted of involvement in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
In July of 1865, the fort became the prison for three of the men convicted of involvement in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The walls met at corner bastions, which are large projections designed to let defensive fire along with the faces of the walls they joined.

Fort Jefferson was designed to be a huge gun platform, impervious to assault, and capable to destroy any enemy ships foolhardy adequate to come within range of its powerful guns.

The fort remained in federal hands throughout the Civil War, however, hostilities were finished in 1865, the fort’s population declined to 1,013, consisting of 486 soldiers or civilians and 527 prisoners.

On January 4, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited this place by ship, designated the area as Fort Jefferson National Monument, but on 26, Oct 1992 the Dry Tortugas, including Fort Jefferson, was established as a National Park.

Well, if you want to visit this Fort, then it can be reached by a daily ferry from Key West, as well as by chartered seaplane and private yacht. As a national park, camping is allowed on the beach.

Fort Jefferson arches
Fort Jefferson arches

Tourists by ferry usually spend four hours on the island, which is enough time for a guided tour of the fort, lunch on the boat and swim snorkel equipment provided on the reef.

From here they could launch an attack virtually anywhere along the Gulf Coast. Fort Jefferson, the most sophisticated of these, was a brilliant and undeniable symbol that the United States wanted to be left alone. Though never attacked, the fort fulfilled its intended role. It helped to protect the peace and prosperity of a young nation.

Abandoned by the Army in 1874, the fort was later used as a coaling station for warships. Though used briefly during both world wars, the fort’s final chapter as “Guardian of the Gulf” had long since closed.

The unfinished Fort Jefferson is a massive coastal fortress, actually a largest masonry structure in the United States.
The unfinished Fort Jefferson is a massive coastal fortress, actually the largest masonry structure in the United States.
Fort Jefferson surrounded by moat
Fort Jefferson surrounded by a moat

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John Smith has been with Histecho since 2017, A Senior Editor & Writer for Histecho. his work has been featured in outlets such as Scientific American, The Washington Post, NBC News, and Fox News. John grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York.