Fort Williams, Maine

Unearthing Fort Williams’ past

Officials contemplate the feasibility of restoring historic Battery Blair.

By Ann S. Kim
akim@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH — in the 1970s, a sewer project helped transform Fort Williams into a park. Soil dug from another part of town was used to build the roads and playing fields, fill the foundations of demolished buildings and cover the gun batteries along the shoreline.

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I read this headline the other day with much joy, having one of those “It’s about freakin’ time” moments. Fort Williams has been one of my favorite historical sites in Maine for years now, and I’ve done some research on it preparing for a video and book release on the subject. It’s a shame to see all of the military aspects covered over by all of the fill as it hides a specific treasure, and a valuable piece of Maine history from the public. While it’s nice that people can go and walk their dogs and fly a kite, it’s also important that we remember who we are and where we came from. Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth is just one of these hidden treasures that exhibit a strong sense of the importance that Maine once held.

Of course, there are other Batteries just as important as Battery Blair, as well as buildings and facilities beyond the gun emplacements, but Battery Blair held the big boys, the 12″ Rodman’s on disappearing carriages. These guns were a fascinating weapon as their bulk could be hidden, and when needed for firing simply raised to their height, fired and then lowered below the parapet walls, partly by the force of recoil, for reloading. This arrangement allowed for the ground level types of coast defenses that hid the profile of theretofore standard masonry defense works such as we see at Fort Popham and Fort Knox. These installations were much harder, and in some cases impossible to detect from the sea.

There is much to tell of this historical landmark, and I for one am glad they are starting to consider restoring it to what it should be. Exposing the original construction of these batteries and returning much of the park to its original luster will go a long way towards pulling tourists to the area for day trips. I wish them luck and hope they are able to get this project off to a flying start, with little red tape to bar their progress. As I get more of my Maine forts book and video done, I’ll post progress and information here for you to read up on. Till then, happy history!

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Here’s a couple of items from the Maine Historical Society:

Book Event
Thursday, April 22, 7pm

Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History
Nick Bunker, Author and Journalist

Join us to celebrate the publication of this probing new history of the Mayflower.  Using a wealth of previously untapped or neglected evidence-from archives in England, Ireland, and the United States, including the Maine Historical Society-British author Nick Bunker gives a vivid, strikingly original account of the Mayflower project. From the rural kingdom of James I to industrial Holland and the beaver ponds of Maine, Bunker will share a rich narrative that combines religion, politics, money, science, and the sea.  Nick Bunker, formerly an investment banker, has worked as an investigative reporter for the Liverpool Echo and as a writer for the Financial Times.

Family Book Event
Saturday, April 24, 1pm

Shipwrecks, Science, and Sanctuaries: Exploring Sunken Cities Beneath the Sea
Mary Cerullo, Author

Cerullo’s recent book Shipwrecks: Exploring Sunken Cities Beneath the Sea profiles two shipwrecks and the artificial reefs created by them. One of those is the S.S. Portland, an elegant steamer that sank in a winter storm in Massachusetts in 1898 with nearly 200 crew and passengers as it was returning to Maine from Boston. In this talk, the author explores the exciting discoveries of underwater explorers and how their work helps us understand the past. Mary Cerullo is the author of 14 non-fiction children’s books, and has been teaching and writing about the ocean and natural history for over 30 years. She currently works for the environmental advocacy organization, Friends of Casco Bay, in South Portland.

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I found this article interesting as it relates the beginning of an effort to get an historic property listed as an officially recognized historic site.

New status sought for old racetrack

Bid for recognition in Machias linked to DOT plans to flood the site

4/10/10

By Sharon Kiley Mack
BDN Staff

 

MACHIAS, Maine — Using photographs, fair programs and other documentation, Washington County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald is attempting to have a former horse-racing track declared an official historic site.

She is working with the Machias Historical Society on the project, which will be submitted to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

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Categories: events, historic buildings, historic preservation, historical societies, history, Maine, Maine Historical Society, preservation, restoration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Fort Williams, Maine

  1. Mary Ireland

    My great great grandfather was a mason at Fort Williams in 1902. I was wondering if there is a collection of pictures during this time frame.

  2. Bob Cumby

    I was station at Fort Williams September 1951-1054.with the US Air Force. The Air Force had a radar site at Fort Williams from 1950 until 1953. It was lash up to other radar sites in Maine. Part of the Air Defense Command. I have seen nothing about the Air Force ever being at Fort William. I have old pictures of the radar and other buildings I took when station here. There were 3 Squadrons. 657th Aircraft Control and Warning. They were replaced by 127th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. A Michigan Air National Guard call up to active duty for two years on September 1, 1953. was sent to Fort Williams to replace 657th. On September 1, 1953. the 127th was returned with our personal to the State of Michigan. The 677th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was formed. In April 1954 it was sent to another radar site in Michigan. The assigned personal were sent to other assignments. I was the last Air Force to leave Fort William. I was transfer to 766th AC&W at Caswell Air Station, Limestone, Maine. That was the end of US Air Force at Fort Williams.

  3. James W. Patt

    I was stationed at Fort Williams September 1951-March 52, with the 127 ac&w. Looking over my orders I found a William H Cumby from Detroit. Bob are you relaterd to william? I was with the 127th ac&w a MIchigan air National Guard unit, we were called into active duity 1 sept. 1951. 1952 I was tranferred to the 762 ac&w, North Truro, Mass.

    I have been back to the Fort twice June 1955 and June 2005. What a difference!!!!! Could not find anyone that new anyting about the 127th being there.

    I have called the Fort, historical soc. nobody knows anything about that part of the fort history.

  4. Stacy C

    I also Looking for information on Fort Williams My step father grew up across from the portland. He has told me some fasinating storys. these storys I’am using For my maine history class. therefore anyone willing to share some info would be greatly appericated. Also any old pics.

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