Egmont Key (Hillsborough County)
Period of Significance: Pre-Columbian through 1940s
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes various historic structures, such as a historic lighthouse (still in use), an oil house, the Ranger residence, Guardhouse and the ruins of artillery aiming towers. Other historic aspects of the site are underwater and available to snorkelers.
An island in the mouth of Tampa Bay near Fort Desoto Park, Egmont Key has a long and storied history extending back to Pre-Columbian and early Spanish exploration. The strategically located site served as an internment camp and deportation site during the Third Seminole War. A small cemetery contains unmarked graves of Seminoles who died on the island. Egmont Key also served as a staging point for the Union navy during the Civil War, a quarantine area during the Spanish American War, a training site during World War I, and an observation area for German U-boats during the Second World War. The existing lighthouse dates from 1858 and there are remnants of three gun batteries. Well known visitors include Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Red Cross founder Clara Barton. Egmont Key is also a wildlife refuge and bird sanctuary.
Threat: Egmont Key is endangered by severe erosion made worse by rising sea levels. Since 1849, the island has lost some 380 acres of land. Every seven years, the Army Corps of Engineers dredges the shipping channel and places the sand on Egmont Key. Despite these refurbishment efforts, erosion has led to the loss of two of the five historic gun batteries.