Six million dollars have been set aside by the Federal government for restoration of Fort Jefferson. The largest brick structure in the western hemisphere has started to crumble at places on two of the six walls. Two crews are working to save the structure, brick by brick.
Stone masons working on the restoration project are impressed by the workmanship on Fort Jefferson, which was built by U.S. army soldiers, slaves, and during the Civil War, Union deserters. The archways in particular are of fine workmanship and few masons could make them today. Consider also that everything was carried to Garden Key by boat, and Key West is 70 miles away. It’s even impressive that today’s restoration crews are working such a remote site, with the nearest hardware store so far away!
The mason work done on Fort Jefferson was of such fine quality that much of the fort would be in great shape if it weren’t for iron structures built into the brick. In spite of 150 years of salt water corrosion and high winds, the bricks are in fine shape. It’s the iron that expanded and cracked the surrounding bricks and mortar.
Crews are working carefully to re-use as many bricks as they can. Other bricks will come from a factory in Louisiana that makes bricks from a press dating back to 1860.
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