Fort De Soto Park - Concrete At Fort De Soto

Concrete At Fort De Soto

By Waldo Rowell

An ingenious solution!

Sea shells are clearly visible in the concrete

No stones in this concrete--just sea shells!

Construction of Fort De Soto began in November 1898. Since there were no roads to Mullet Key, all equipment and supplies had to come by barge or by ship. So, one of the first projects was the building of a 275 foot dock into Tampa Bay. Another very early project was the building of a narrow gauge railway from the pier to a place close to today's picnic shelter near what is now called "Battery Laidley."

When the actual concrete work was started in March of 1899, the ship with the cement had arrived but the ships bringing the sand and stone from New York and New Jersey were delayed. The construction crew, showing the usual American ingenuity, went to the beach and gathered some of the plentiful shells as a substitute for the stone. Then, since Florida is one great big sand spit, there was also plenty of sand available! Now the engineers had the ingredients to make the concrete.

broken concrete reveals sea shells under smooth finish.

We can see that the construction crews were able to put a smooth finish on this concrete, where a good finish was required.

Even after all these years it is easy to see this "shell concrete" in the foundation for the bake house ovens and in the observation tower. Even after the stone arrived, shell was still used to supplement the stone. To this day, it is possible to see shells in the walls of the battery.

Construction of the Post structures was completed in 1902 and came in under the budgeted amount of approximately $120,700. This amount did not include the cost of water and sewer. Translating this amount into today's dollars, the total would be $2,514,583.

Come to Fort De Soto Park, walk the Historic Trail, and see the shell in the concrete. Think about the idea of using the shell--would you have thought of doing that? (Especially if you didn't have stone for your concrete and you needed to get the work done in a hurry?)

Waldo Rowell is a Volunteer History Docent who conducts fort history tours.

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