About This Location
Nestled within the serene landscape of Fort Foster Park in Kittery, Maine, Battery Bohlen stands as a testament to an era when coastal defense was paramount. This abandoned reinforced concrete coastal gun battery, constructed during the Endicott Period in 1901, played a crucial role in bolstering the Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth. Though its days of defending the coast have long passed, Battery Bohlen remains open for exploration, inviting visitors to connect with a pivotal chapter in America's coastal defense history.
A Glimpse into the Past: The Endicott Period
The origins of Battery Bohlen date back to the 1890s when the U.S. Government conducted a comprehensive analysis of its coastal defense capabilities. Recognizing the obsolescence of old masonry forts and smoothbore cannons in the face of advancements in weaponry during the Civil War, the government established the Endicott Board in 1885. Tasked with devising a contemporary defense system for the nation, this initiative, known as the Endicott system, was constructed between 1890 and 1910, marking the Endicott Period.
During this period, the government identified the need to fortify the Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth due to its strategic importance. With the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the entrance to the Piscataqua River to safeguard, Battery Bohlen emerged as a critical component of the defense strategy.
Battery Bohlen's Birth and Features
Construction on Battery Bohlen commenced in 1898 and was completed in 1901, and on December 16, 1901, it was transferred for use to the Coast Artillery. This substantial coastal gun battery was equipped with three 10-inch M1895 guns mounted on M1896 Disappearing carriages. The magazine, located on the first floor of the battery, served as the storage for powder and shells, while the second floor housed the mounted guns.
To facilitate the transport of shells to the guns, two Hodges electric shell hoists were initially installed. However, these were later replaced with Taylor-Raymond shell hoists on February 11, 1922.
World War I and the Gun Stripping
The outbreak of World War I saw the United States exploring ways to support its European allies. As part of this effort, many coastal gun batteries had their guns stripped and sent overseas. On August 17, 1917, an order was issued for the removal of Battery Bohlen's guns, which were officially transferred to France on October 2, 1917. After the war's conclusion, the guns were returned and reinstalled on October 30, 1919.
World War II and Battery Bohlen's Abandonment
World War II brought another round of disarming for coastal gun batteries, and after this, Battery Bohlen was left in a state of abandonment. On December 15, 1942, orders were issued for the removal of the guns and carriages, marking the end of its active service.
Battery Bohlen Today: Exploring History
Since its abandonment in 1942, Battery Bohlen has served as a historical relic within the now-public Fort Foster Park. While no guns or mounts remain at Battery Bohlen, it offers visitors the opportunity to explore the gun pits and the roof of the structure. The magazine, located on the first floor, is now buried and inaccessible. Despite the absence of certain elements, Battery Bohlen continues to captivate history enthusiasts, offering a unique window into a pivotal chapter in America's coastal defense history.
To visit Battery Bohlen today, a sizable parking lot at Fort Foster Park is available at the end of Pocahontas Road in Kittery Point. During the summer months, a $20 parking fee per vehicle is applicable. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the park is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. During the off-season, the parking lot remains open, and no fees are collected at the booth. Fort Foster Park also welcomes dogs, provided they are leashed and their waste is cleaned up, ensuring a pet-friendly exploration of history.