Fort Levett

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Fort Levett and Ram Island Ledge, Cushing Island, Maine, 1909

Fort Levett was a former U.S. Army fort built on Cushing Island, Maine, in 1898. Located in Cumberland County, Maine, in the middle of Casco Bay near Portland, Maine, the fort was heavily fortified with cannons for coastal defense. Built in the wake of the Spanish American War, Fort Levett was manned during both World Wars.[1] Fort Levett was built on 140 acres (0.57 km2) of Cushing Island, and the coast artillery fortification was visited by several Secretaries of War, including Jacob M. Dickinson, Secretary of War in 1909.[2] The fort, whose call letters were FV, was part of a network of forts guarding Portland Harbor and Casco Bay, which included Levett, Fort Williams on Portland Head, and Fort McKinley on Great Diamond Island as well as Fort Preble. Fort Scammel and Fort Gorges, once strongly fortified and guarding the harbor entrance, were decommissioned earlier than the previous three forts.[3] The forts were maintained by the Army's Ordnance Department.

In addition to its artillery, the fort also operated as a wireless telegraph station.[4] In order to furnish its base with water, the army dug four wells on Cushing Island. The island presented other challenges as well. In full view of the battery of artillery was a large summer hotel. "This hotel," noted a War Department report, "is so near that the guns can not be fired without causing much damage to the building. The occupants of this hotel, if it is allowed to remain there, will be practically in the fort, while the soldiers who garrison the fort will live in barracks at a considerable distance from their guns."[5]

The army subsequently erected cook tents and frame buildings at the fort. Although the owners of the hotel wished the army to purchase it to billet its men, the army resisted the offer, and chose instead to erect its buildings nearby.[6] The fort had a base field hospital for the soldiers, who were part of Batteries A and M. The fort initially boasted 6-pounder RF guns on field mounts, as well as 15-pounder RF guns on parapet mounts.[7] By 1920, the fort had two 12-inch (300 mm) long-range batteries.

Fort Levett was named for English explorer Captain Christopher Levett, an early explorer of the New England coast and the first European to settle what is today Portland, Maine.[8] King Charles I of England granted Levett 6,000 acres (24 km2) to found a city the explorer proposed to call York, after his English birthplace. (Today's York County, Maine carries the name of Levett's birthplace.) Levett made his plantation in 1623, leaving a group of Yorkshiremen behind, and he returned to England. The settlement subsequently failed, and the colonists were never heard from again. Levett never returned to Maine.

The fort was last used for coastal defense in World War II, and subsequently the obsolete base was sold by the government, which asked $177,000 for the property.[9] It was bought by a group of Cushing Island residents after it was decommissioned. Forts Levett and McKinley ultimately became private condominium associations.[10]

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Coordinates: 43°38′35″N 70°11′43″W / 43.64306°N 70.19528°W / 43.64306; -70.19528