1973 Fort Taylor excavation
Howard England Excavates Old Fort With Shovel, Cans KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) - Looking at the massive stone- work of Fort Zachary Taylor, you wonder why any man in his right mind would think of try- ing to excavate such a giant project with a shovel and five- gallon cans.. "Somebody had to do it, and I'm :Â».," said Howard England as he led the way along a sun- baked rampart of a jumble of bricks and giant cannons. "I've been at it five years now, and all the work has been done by hand. Had some help a few years ago, but'people lose in-' terest after a while and drift away." . Fort Zachary Taylor was one of the few Southern strongholds that stayed in federal hands during the Civil War, but it never saw a shot fired in an- ger. England said the Con- federates never tried to take Key West because they knew the fort was too strong. '-'At one time there were 299 captured Confederate blockade runners anchored under the guns of this fort," England said. "Those ships and their cargoes were a tremendous loss to the South: But one Con- federate general who lived in Key West saw the fort being . built, and when Jefferson Davis proposed an attack the general answered, in the modern par- lance, 'No way.'" ) The fort sits on the Key West Naval Base. England was a ci- vilian' architect on the base back in 1967 when a local resi- dent asked why something wasn't being done to make Fort Taylor a national monument. "The reaction of the base commander and most people was, 'What fort?'" England said. "It was all covered over with sand and nobody even knew it was here. ."So they asked me to take a look at it, and I came back and recommended that it be ex- cavated and made a national monument," he said. "They said, 'Good. You do it.'" He's been doing it as a hobby ever since. The fort is a 19th Century ex- ample of unplanned obsoles- cence. Work started in 1845, but just about the time the Civil War began somebody invented the rifled cannons that packed a lot bigger whallop than the old iron cannon ball. This meant the fort's original walls weren't much use, so frantic Union engineers threw up thicker battlements, using concrete, old iron and anything else that was handy. At the end of the 19th Centu- ry, the Army decided to mod- ernize the fort again and the huge, cavernous gun rooms along the euter walls were filled up to give added protec- tion. The engineers again used whatever came to hand. Un- fortunately for England, this in- cluded most of the seven-and- eight-ton cannon, which were buried under piles of sand cemented into the walls. In five years of hauling five-gallon cans up ladders, England has managed to clear the sand off the top of the and excavate three gun rooms. "We have to take 6,000 yards of fill out of each he said. "Those damaged can- nonballs are hardest to get They weigh 125 pounds apiece, and there's usually 40 in each room." In one of the old ammunition storage areas buried in the bowels of the fort, England set up a display of weaponry arid artifacts. He pointed to a pile of %vhite objects in a case and said, "Some of those bones from an old Indian mound, a lot are from black slaves built the fort." Picking up a small bottle, England said, "the Army had drug problem even in those days. Soldiers who were addicts used to steal these bottles of laudanum." QUIETS OWN HOUSE TORONTO ( A P ) -- works department is spending $60,000 for 10 o.uieter air com- pressors used by the city to power jackharnmers and other construction equipment. The new compressors are 50 per cent more costly than less noisy ones.