Officials contemplate the feasibility of restoring historic Battery Blair.
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.
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!
Here’s a couple of items from the Maine Historical Society:
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.
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.
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.
Bid for recognition in Machias linked to DOT plans to flood the site
By Sharon Kiley Mack
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.