"D" is for Defense

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Visitor's ABC's

By John Hirtle Beach News Staff Writer

Beach News, Thursday, June 9, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of Beach News]
Each year, the Beach News is proud to feature an unique ongoing series of articles concerning interesting facts about the region's places and history. This year, we will be doing a virtual visitor's ABCs of the Seacoast region.

Forts on the Seacoast

The New Hampshire Seacoast area is possibly one of the most heavily fortified areas of the country, standing guard against an invasion or attack that never came. Some positions date back to before the American Revolution, while the newest date from the dark days of World War Two. Like other coastal fortifications, those that were in use up through the Second World War were decommissioned and turned into parks, most of which may be visited.

End Stations - Watch Towers

Base end stations, or "watchtowers" were built up and down the Seacoast for the Portsmouth Harbor Defenses. These tall square concrete structures helped aim the guns at Fort Dearborn and other defense positions. Each 'slot' you see on a tower was used to aim one specific gun. A number still exist and are privately owned. You will see them along Route 1A on Great Boar's Head at Hampton Beach; a converted tower that is now a private home just north of Bass Beach in Rye; a tower near Pulpit Rock in Rye, which is the only round tower in the local system; a tower at Fort Foster and another on the northern end of Gerrrish Island in Kittery; and a tower on the island of Appledore at the Isles of Shoales, All towers are private property and are not open to the public.

Fort Dearborn - Seacoast Science Center

Located on Scenic Route 1A, the Seacoast Science Center sits on the birthplace of New Hampshire, where Pannaway Plantation was established in 1623. The colonists later moved upriver to Portsmouth, and the area has been used for farmland, luxury homes, a coastal defense battery, and today, a state park. Scenic stone walls and forested paths along the rocky shore are interrupted by abandoned bunkers and gun emplacements awaiting an attack which never came. Nature and history walks are offered regularly, as well as camps for children. The Science Center itself offers exhibits on local marine life and the area's history. Park open 8 am- dusk; Science Center open 10-5. Admission. (603) 436-7406 (park) 436-8043 (center)

Fort Stark

Located on Wild Rose Lane just off Scenic Route 1B in Newcastle, the smallest town in New Hampshire, Fort Stark is one of the best-preserved Endicott era (1885-1906) coastal fortifications on the Seacoast. Unfortunatly, due to state cutbacks, this park is rarely open to the public. Camp Langdon - Great Island Common Just past Wild Rose Lane on Scenic Route 1B, Great Island Common (also known as New Castle Common) was once Camp Langdon, where the Army quartered its men. The barracks are long gone now, and the Common is a large recreational field with a small beach and playground. Open dawn to dusk. Admission.

Fort Constitution

Located off Scenic Route 1B, Fort Constitution (formerly Fort William and Mary) was the site where the first overt act of the Revolution took place in 1774, as American patriots raided the undermanned fort and seized its gunpowder and arms. Since then, is has served through every war until it became a park after World War Two. The US Coast Guard still maintains a station and a lighthouse there, and the fort commands a splendid view of Portsmouth Harbor. Open dawn to dusk. Free.

Fort McClary

Located on SR 103 in Kittery. Built in the Colonial Era, Fort McClary defended Kittery from foreign enemies and New Hampshire tax collectors alike. Partially rebuilt during the Civil War, work was abandoned, as were enormous granite blocks around the site. The most notable point on the grounds in the white garrison house, which was erected in 1848 and today serves as a visitor's center when open, and offers splendid views of Portsmouth Harbor. Open 9-dusk, Memorial Day to the end of September. Admission $1. (207) 384-5160

Fort Foster

Located on the tip of Gerrish Island in Kittery, this Endicott era fort has been taken over by the town as a recreation area. Aside from one bunker which has had it protective earthworks removed, most of the fort's bunkers have been sealed and buried up to the actual gun emplacements for public safety. A small beach provides and excellent swimming spot, and there are picnic and playground facilities as well as many roads and trails to explore. A pier is also maintained for fishing. Admission.

Follow this link for more information on Seacoast forts
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