About This Location
Battery Blair is an old abandoned coastal gun battery located on Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Battery Blair Establishment
After being completed in 1791, Portland Head Lighthouse stood alone on Cape Elizabeth’s coasts for many years. But, the Endicott Period followed. Under the leadership of Secretary of War William C. Endicott, US President Grover Cleveland established the Board of Fortifications in 1885 as a joint army, navy, and civilian board. The board’s conclusions in its 1886 report provided a dismal picture of the state of existing defenses. For around 29 locations along the US coastline, they proposed a massive $127 million construction program for breechloading cannons, mortars, floating batteries, and underground mines.
When the first battery was added in 1896, Portland Lighthouse began to resemble a fort. By 1898, the first three batteries had been built, and by 1899, Fort Williams had received its official name. Following the Army’s purchase of additional land in 1900, significant expansions were completed, including barracks, officers’ quarters, hospitals, and more. Battery Blair was designed and constructed after the additional acres were purchased.
Battery Blair was constructed as a concrete coastal gun battery for the Endicott Period. The government ordered the fort to be built in 1901 and it was finished in 1903. It was transferred to the Coast Artillery for use on July 31, 1903. It was named after Major General Frank P. Blair, who was part of the U.S. Volunteers. He served with distinction during the U.S. Civil War.
The battery was equipped with two 12″ M1895 guns mounted on M1897 Disappearing carriages. This battery had two levels, with the magazines down below and the weapons up top. Two Taylor-Raymond shell hoists were used to transfer shells from the magazine level to the cannon loading platform. Powder hoists weren’t offered. Both the central power plant and the emplacement power plant supplied electricity.
Disarmed during World War 2
Although many coastal gun batteries had their guns removed during World War 1, Battery Blair was not affected. It was during World War 2 when the government look towards the battery. On December 31, 1943, the guns at Battery Blair were ordered to be salvaged. The carriages were ordered to be dismantled on February 10, 1944, and the weapons were moved to Watervliet Arsenal on March 1, 1944.
What Remains Today
Today, Battery Blair can be found in Fort Williams State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The battery can be found just in front of Portland Head Lighthouse. There are no original weapons or mounts at the battery. Sadly, the south side, emplacement #1 was totally buried and can hardly be seen today. Emplacement #2 was buried up to the gun-loading platform level. There are a few small informational posters on the remaining battery walls.