Fort McClary

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Fort McClary
DSCN3983 fortmcclary e.jpg
The renovated blockhouse of Fort McClary, dating from 1844, which now serves as a museum
Fort McClary is located in Maine
Fort McClary
Location Off ME 103 near Fort McClary State Park
Nearest city Kittery Point, Maine
Coordinates 43°04′54″N 70°42′34″W / 43.0817°N 70.7094°W / 43.0817; -70.7094Coordinates: 43°04′54″N 70°42′34″W / 43.0817°N 70.7094°W / 43.0817; -70.7094
NRHP Reference # 69000025
Added to NRHP October 1, 1969

Fort McClary is a former defensive fortification of the United States military located along the southern coast of Maine at Kittery Point. Built at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, it was used primarily throughout the 19th century to protect approaches to the harbor of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and its U.S. naval shipyard.

The property and its surviving structures, including a blockhouse dating from 1844, are now owned and operated by the State of Maine as Fort McClary State Historic Site.


Fort McClary blockhouse in 1997

Coastal defenses on the site date to the late 17th century, when local shipbuilder William Pepperell acquired the property and erected crude defense works in 1689. (Prior to that the village was protected by Fort William and Mary at Portsmouth.) In 1715, during the lead up to Father Rale's War, the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted to erect a permanent breastwork of six guns for the defense of the Piscataqua River. The fort itself was officially established in 1808 and named for New Hampshire native Major Andrew McClary, an American officer killed in the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. The fort was used throughout the 19th century, most notably during the War of 1812, as well as during the American Civil War, during which time Vice President of the United States Hannibal Hamlin enlisted in the Maine Coast Guards and served as a cook in the fort. It saw little action during these conflicts.

By the 1910s, most of the fort had fallen into disrepair and it was officially decommissioned in 1918. The State of Maine acquired most the property from the federal government in 1924, after which time it was managed as a park. Several of the dilapidated structures were demolished in the following decades. During World War II, surviving parts of the fort were used by civilian defense forces. In 1969, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The surviving blockhouse and other structures were renovated in 1987. The 1844 blockhouse serves as a museum.

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