Monday, July 27, 2009

Fort De Soto, Florida

Located on Mullet Key near St. Petersburg and at the entrance to Tampa Bay are the remains of a unique system of harbor defenses originally built to protect the area from Spanish attack during the Spanish-American War.

Tampa during the 1890s was a major port for the smuggling of weapons and other supplies to revolutionaries in Cuba. When the United States declared war on Spain, fears grew that the Spanish might target the Florida city. As a result, the U.S. Government authorized the construction of a series of powerful concrete artillery batteries to defend the important port.

Armed with modern (for the time) rapid fire artillery and mortars that could fire shells weighing more than 1,000 pounds, Fort De Soto and Fort Dade were still under construction when the war ended, but eventually became important U.S. Army posts. Already obsolete by the end of World War I, they were evacuated by the army during the 1920s.

Fort Dade, located on Egmont Key, eventually collapsed into the surf, as did one of the two batteries at Fort De Soto. The second battery, however, has been carefully preserved by Pinellas County and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Easily accessible by car from St. Petersburg, the historic fort is the centerpiece of beautiful Fort De Soto Park, which also offers nature trails, camping, boat ramps, picnic areas and what has recently been named as one of the Top Ten Best Beaches in the United States. To learn more, please visit

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