Fort Jefferson Preservation
The enabling legislation of Dry Tortugas National Park mandates that the National Park Service "protect, stabilize, restore, and interpret Fort Jefferson, an outstanding example of nineteenth century masonry fortification" for future generations. Protecting and stabilizing this impressive fort is complicated by its location near the Florida Keys where regular exposure to salt, heat, destructive weather, and water are a constant threat to the masonry construction of the fortification. A walk around the moat today shows where large sections of the fort walls have collapsed into the moat, largely caused by rusting of the historic totten shutter system.
Dry Tortugas National Park has initiated a multi-phased, multi-year preservation project to stabilize Fort Jefferson. The scope of this project is to carefully remove the existing brick surrounding the embrasure (cannon) openings on the lower level in order to gain access to the original iron elements. Bricks will be documented, cleaned, and set aside for reuse.
In 2008, the park began Phase II of this project that will go through 2011. This phase will address two fronts with the complete removal of all original iron elements and wall rebuilding and stabilization. Crews will remove the rusted iron elements from the original Totten shutters and stabilize the exterior walls of Fort Jefferson by rebuilding the scarp (fort) wall. Concrete made of local sand and coral - just as used in the original construction - and historic bricks salvaged during demolition are being used to preserve the historic appearance of the walls.
A good example of the "finished product" can be seen on a walk about halfway around the moat, where the wall has been restored and the replica Totten shutters have been installed.
Did You Know?
The USS Maine would make a brief stop at Fort Jefferson before its ill-fated voyage to Havana. Following the sinking of the Maine, the Dry Tortugas served as an important staging area for U.S. battleships during the Spanish-American War.