Fort Dade

Fort Dade - Egmont Key

The ruins of Fort Dade can be found on northern end of Egmont Key. Egmont Key is located in the mouth of Tampa Bay southwest of Fort De Soto Park and north of Anna Maria Island. Today Egmont Key is a State Park and National Wildlife Refuge and is home to the Egmont Key Lighthouse.

Before the fort was established, the Key was used for various government and military purposes. In 1848 the first lighthouse was built. Due to hurricane damage in 1828 and 1852, the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1857-1858 and still is in service today.

In the 1850s during the Third Seminole War, the key served as internment camp for captured Seminole Indians. These prisoners of war remained on the key until they were sent west to a reservation in Oklahoma.

The key was occupied by Confederate blockade-runners early on in the civil war. In July 1861, Union Naval forces captured the key and used it as a staging ground for attacks against the city of Tampa. The lighthouse at that time was used a watchtower. The key was also used to hold Confederate prisoners, escaped slaves, and Union sympathizers.

In 1898 at the beginning of the Spanish-American War, construction of Fort Dade and Fort De Soto began to protect Tampa Bay. Gun batteries, docks, rail lines, and a thousand tent U.S. Marine Hospital were built at the fort. The Spanish fleet never came and the war was over later that year. A year later the fort had 12 buildings, including two 109 man artillery barracks, officers’ quarters, a hospital, mess hall, administration building, a guardhouse, and various support buildings and was home to 150 people. Fort construction was completed in 1906.

In October 1921, a hurricane destroyed the boathouse and wharf and damaged many of the fort buildings. Given the cost to rebuild and fact the coast defense installations were considered obsolete, the fort was closed and placed in caretaker status in May 1923. Subsequent hurricanes and fires further damaged the existing buildings.

During World War II, Egmont Key was again used by the military serving as a patrol station and ammunition storage facilities for ships entering Tampa Bay. During this time, 150 Coast Guard, Army, and Navy personnel were stationed on the key.

In 1989, Egmont Key State Park was established. You can explore the ruins of Fort Dade, the Egmont Key Lighthouse, and the rest of the key on a Captain Sal’s Island Adventure Egmont Key boat tour.

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