The renovated blockhouse of Fort McClary, dating from 1844, which now serves as a museum
|Location||Off ME 103 near Fort McClary State Park|
|Nearest city||Kittery Point, Maine|
|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.
Coastal defenses on the site date to the late 17th century, when local shipbuilder William Pepperell (father to the more well-known William Pepperrell) 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 Province of Massachusetts Bay voted to erect a permanent breastwork of six guns for the defense of the Piscataqua River. This fortification, known as Fort William, was transferred to the United States government in 1803; none of its features are known to survive.
Fort McClary was officially established in 1808, 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, and was further expanded in the 1840s, probably a consequence of tensions with Great Britain over the disputed border between Maine and New Brunswick. The fort saw active use during the American Civil War, at which time it achieved much of its present structure. Its Civil War garrison notably included the Vice President of the United States Hannibal Hamlin, who enlisted in the Maine Coast Guards as a private 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.
- "NRHP nomation for Fort McClary" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-06-16.
- Fort McClary from American Forts Network
- Maine Bureau of Parks and Land: Fort McClary State Historic Site
- Friends of Fort McClary