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Fort Del Morro - San Juan

Fort San Felipe del Morro —or El Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Spanish— is a sixteenth-century citadel that lies on the northwestern-most point of the islet of San Juan, Puerto Rico. For many years, it guarded the entrance to San Juan bay, and defended the city from seaborne enemies. El Morro, which means "promontory", is part of San Juan National Historic Site and was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1983.

Today, El Morro is one of Puerto Rico's main tourist attractions and museums, displaying artifacts that Spaniards, Indians and Africans of that time used. Other exhibits display ship models as well as timelines and historical narratives. Tourists and locals enjoy flying kites in the ocean wind on the acres of grass surrounding the castle. Over two million visitors a year explore these windswept ramparts and pageways.

On the other side of the entrance of the bay, a smaller fort known as "El Cañuelo" supported Fort San Felipe del Morro in defending the entrance to San Juan's bay. During the assault of the city by Francis Drake in 1595, a chain was drawn across the entrance to the bay.

Architecture and construction history

The core structures of El Morro were completed in a forty year timespan in the 16th century, but new structures, embellishments, and restorations were added to the complex over the entire span of its 400 year history.

The fort was begun in 1539 by Spanish settlers to defend the port of San Juan. Its architecture mirrors the style of that century, as evidenced by similar military structures in Cuba, St. Augustine, Florida, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and other South American sites largely occupied by the Spanish in the Age of Exploration. The initial phase of construction was completed in 1589. The structure was named in Honor of King Phillip II of Spain.

Much of the extant structure, was completed in the late 18th century. This includes much of the 18 foot (5 m) thick walls; six additional levels; and the sentry posts known as garitas. The site was expanded at this time to cover over 70 acres (280,000 m²).

The fort came under United States control after 1898, the green space in front of "El Morro" was used for playing golf by U.S. military officers. During World War II the United States military made another notable addition to the fort by adding a prominent sentry tower in the center of the main fort. This tower is the tallest point on the structure, 180 feet (55 m) above sea level, and flies both the U.S. and Puerto Rican flags.

In 1992 additional historic restorations were performed.