Egmont Key Lighthouse
Built in 1858 and used as a
watchtower during the Civil
War, the historic lighthouse is
a popular part of Egmont Key. - Egmont Key and Lighthouse, Florida - Egmont Key and Lighthouse, Florida
Egmont Key State Park
The island is located off the mouth of Tampa Bay
and was a major internment camp for Seminole men,
womena nd children during the Trail of Tears.
Egmont Key in 1862
The Stars and Stripes fly from
the top of the lighthouse in
1862. Egmont Key became
an important base for the
Union Navy.
Historic View of Lighthouse
This photo shows the Egmont
Key Lighthouse as it once
appeared. The top has since
been altered.
Fort Dade from the Air
The long structure visible
here was one of the artillery
batteries of Fort Dade, a
former U.S. Army poston
Egmont Key.
Egmont Key & Egmont Key Lighthouse - Pinellas County, Florida
The Site of Historic Fort Dade
Egmont Key is a beautiful barrier island just
off the coast of Tampa and
St. Petersburg on
the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Home to the Egmont Key Lighthouse, the
island is now preserved as Egmont Key
State Park. A major historic site, the island
has alternately been used as an internment
camp for Seminole Indians, a lookout point
and refugee camp during the Civil War, an
important military base following the Spanish
American War, and now as a nature preserve
and recreation spot.

Egmont Key was probably one of the coastal
islands spotted by the Spanish explorers
Panfilo de Narvaez and Hernando de Soto as
they approached the coast of Florida to begin
their ill-fated expeditions. Along with Mullet
Key, it is one of the two main islands that
frame the primary entrance to Tampa Bay.

The key is named for John Perceval, the
second Earl of Egmont, and the U.S.
Government was quick to recognize its
importance as a navigational landmark after
Florida was transferred from Spain in 1821.
Congress approved funding for a lighthouse
on the island during the 1830s. The original
structure was severely damaged in the Great
Hurricane of 1848, when water swept over
Egmont Key.

During the 1850s, Egmont Key became an
internment camp for captured Seminole
Indians. The Third Seminole War (also called
the "Billy Bowlegs War") was then underway
and the unfortunate prisoners were sent to
the island to await transport to new homes in
the West. It was the last act of what is
remembered today as the Trail of Tears.

Because of the earlier storm damage, a
replacement lighthouse was approved.
Completed in 1858, it only operated for three
years before Confederates removed the
beacon to prevent its use by the Union Navy.

The navy responded by taking possession of
Egmont Key. The lighthouse tower was used
as a lookout post and the island itself
became the home of a large refugee camp
where Southern Unionists and their families
came to escape the Confederacy. A party of
these were attacked by Southern guerrillas
on the mainland after they went ashore to
find food on their abandoned farms.

Many of the men among the refugees on
Egmont Key eventually volunteered to serve
in the Union army as part of the 2nd Florida
U.S. Cavalry. They took part in a variety of
actions including the Brooksville Raid, the
Battle of Station Four and the Battle of Natural
In 1887, as yellow fever ravaged Key West, a
temporary refuge station was established on
Egmont Key. The "unacclimated" from Key
West were taken there. Government reports
indicate that at least one died on the island.

As war with Spain loomed in 1898, the nation
moved to strengthen its coastal defenses.
Egmont Key was one of the key points picked
for fortification.

Fort Dade, which included heavy concrete
artillery batteries, was built on the island. Its
batteries were designed to fire in cooperation
with those of
Fort De Soto on Mullet Key.  The
Spanish American War came, but the enemy
fleet was destroyed on the southern coast of
Cuba and Tampa Bay remained safe from
attack. The post stayed active until 1923
when it was abandoned by the army. The
ruins of the streets and gun batteries still

Egmont Key State Park is open to the public
daily from 8 a.m. until sunset.
Please click
here to visit the official website for more

The only way to reach the island is by private
boat. Charter boats and rentals are available
at many of the area marinas. Most visitors
use the Egmont Key Ferry, a private ferry
Please click here for more
Some Photos by Lauren Pitone
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.