The Fort East Martello Museum & Gardens:
A bastion of Florida Keys history
Designed after the nearly impregnable coastal Martello watchtowers in Italy, the Fort East Martello was never completed and never saw hostile action. Its outer bulwark and inner citadel with eight-foot thick granite walls built during the Civil War era were a monument to military engineering and could have withstood any amount of bombardment at the time. But the development of explosive shells made these defenses passé.
Today its casemates, citadel and courtyard are home to a vast collection of Key West and Key's artifacts and historical records as well a military memorabilia. The view from atop the central tower affords visitors a spectacular panorama of the Atlantic coast of Key West. In the garden an 80-year-old playhouse provides children with insight into how kids lived and played in old Key West. Inside the galleries are the state's largest collections of painted wood carvings and drawings by Mario Sanchez and the scrap metal "junk" sculpture of Stanley Papio, both of whom are internationally renowned folk artists from the Keys.
It is the best-preserved example of the Martello style of military architecture in the country.
Recent and past history of Key West and the Keys Exhibits of early settlement, sponging and fishing, Cuban influence, military involvement, writers and other characters and even Robert the haunted doll line the corridors of the old battery, itself an artifact of mid-19th Century history.
Mario Sanchez's Key West Three galleries of the museum are dedicated to displaying the work of Mario Sanchez whose detailed depictions of life in Key West during the early 20th Century have made him one of the country's most sought after folk artists. Sanchez creations mostly are reliefs carved into wood panels and then brightly colored. They reflect street scenes, places and people from his past in amazingly accurate detail and with a profound sense of humor. Signed and unsigned lithographic prints are available in the museum store.
Stanley Papio, the dynamic junkman A former roustabout, wrestler and welder during the early to mid-20th century, Stanley Papio created a series of constructions welded together from scrap metal from junk autos, appliances, beds and other discarded iron and steel. These sculptures, which often represented actual people, animals or objects, were painted and displayed in his yard in the upper Keys. The pieces in the collection, most of which are housed in the Fort East Martello's citadel, are recognized as culturally important American artworks.