By John Hirtle, Beach News Staff
Beach News, Thursday, July 28, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Beach News]
Top left corner: The beach leading to Great Island Common & Great Island Common Bottom left corner (White tower) Portsmouth Harbor Light. The nearest red roofed building to it is the old lighthouse keeper's house The point is taken up by Fort Contitution (The pentagon outline is the incomplete Civil War Era walls - the square outline inside them is the old brick 1818 fort.) The parking area is the modern US Coast Guard station (as is the now unused dock to the right) The strip of tan in the between the beach and the station is the remains of an Endicott era battery - the trees in the photo have since been cut down.
[Beach News photo by John Hirtle, taken from the "Hood" airship in 2001.]
New Castle is many things. It is the smallest town in New Hampshire in terms of size, the most heavily fortified, and the only one that is on an island.
New Castle residents don't brag about it though- in fact, despite its location, the town is almost overlooked by residents and visitors alike. There are only two ways onto the island along Scenic Route 1B, which goes from Route 1A in Rye through New Castle to the South End of Portsmouth, and neither is very well marked.
In any case, there are very few businesses in Newcastle, the largest of which is the recently restored and reopened Wentworth By The Sea, which towers over the road from Rye like a great white castle. In short, New Castle is a residential area with a rich history and panoramic visas of the water.
Foremost of these historic sites with a view is Fort Constitution, the "New Castle" that inspired the town's name. Originally known as Fort William And Mary, it faithfully guards the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor, falling only once to invaders - American Patriots who stole gunpowder and arms in the first overt act of the American Revolution in December of 1774. What you see today is a shell of later fortifications. The outer granite wall was left incomplete at the end of the American Civil War, while the removal of the older brick fort inside the new works was halted. Other concrete structures from the harbor defense dot the area, along with the Coast Guard Station. The fort is located off Scenic Route 1B and is open to the public. The Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (also known as Fort Point Light) lies just outside Fort Constitution. The original light was established in 1771, and was the first lighthouse erected north of Boston. Today's light was built in 1870, and is open by the Friends of the Portsmouth Harbor Light for tours once each month during the summer.
Other points of interest include the Great Island Common. Once known as Camp Langdon, it housed soldiers manning the Portsmouth Harbor Defense. Only concrete foundations of the buildings remain, as the site has become a popular recreational area. A small beach, a playground, and picnic tables provide a perfect place for a picnic, while watching boats sail in and out of the harbor. A modest admission fee is charged during the summer.
The final standing fort on the island is Fort Stark at the end of Wild Rose Lane. While it is a state park, it is rarely open to the public, and is not a good place for children to visit. For those interested in coastal fortifications though, it is the most accessible of the Endicott era bunkers in the Seacoast region.
New Hampshire Seacoast Cruises, a great way to see whales.