National Geographic : 1991 Aug
STEPHEN SIGGINS FORT JEFFERSON NATIONAL MONUMENT Call it a mason's dream-or maybe nightmare. Fort Jefferson National Mon ument has 16 million bricks. "At the very least," says mason Stephen Siggins, here working on one. Siggins belongs to a team of Park Service masons who travel the Southeast. Started in 1846 but never finished, the fort, which sits on a slip of an island 70 miles west of Key West, was designed to protect shipping lanes in the Straits of Florida. Afederal prison during the Civil War, it later held some of the men convicted of NationalPark Service at 75 complicity in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Itwas made a national monument in 1935; restoration began two years ago. The fort was large enough to garrison 1,500 men. Today ten park personnel are based there. Patching up the eight-foot-thick walls of this masonry marvel is a challenge, says Siggins. And not without its small surprises. Recently a mason found an old half-smoked cigar behind some bricks. "Like the boss came along suddenly and a workman put it out."