About This Location
Perched atop the picturesque landscape of Fort Foster Park in Kittery, Maine, Battery Chapin stands as a silent sentinel, a testament to a bygone era of coastal defense. This abandoned reinforced concrete coastal gun battery, built during the Endicott Period in 1904, offers a captivating glimpse into America's historical commitment to safeguarding its shores.
A Glance Back in Time: The Endicott Period
The seeds of Battery Chapin's existence were sown in the 1890s when the U.S. Government embarked on an analysis of its coastal defenses. The lessons learned from the Civil War, which had rendered old masonry forts and smoothbore cannons obsolete, prompted the establishment of the Endicott Board in 1885. Tasked with conceiving a modern defense system for the nation, this marked the birth of the Endicott system, which was constructed between 1890 and 1910, a period now referred to as the Endicott Period.
During this era, the government recognized the need to strengthen the Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth, given the strategic importance of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the entrance to the Piscataqua River. To bolster their capabilities, Battery Chapin was constructed as part of this ambitious defense strategy.
Construction on Battery Chapin was finalized in 1904. On December 31, 1904, the battery was transferred to the Coast Artillery for active service. It was equipped with two 3-inch M1902MI guns mounted on M1902 Pedestal carriages. The battery featured two stories: the lower level served as the magazine where shells and powder were stored, while the upper level housed the mounted guns and a small lookout post. Notably, no shell hoists were installed, requiring the manual handling of all ammunition by the personnel stationed at the battery.
World War I and World War II: A Testament to Battery Chapin's Value
As the United States entered World War I and sought ways to support its allies in Europe, many coastal gun batteries had their guns stripped and sent overseas. However, no orders were issued for Battery Chapin's guns to be removed, and they remained in place throughout World War I.
The significance of Battery Chapin extended into World War II. While many coastal gun batteries built during the Endicott Period saw little use during this period, Battery Chapin continued to play its role within the Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth. It was only after the conclusion of World War II that the battery was declared surplus, and its guns and carriages were salvaged. Battery Chapin was officially abandoned on October 18, 1945.
The Battery Today: A Glimpse into History
Since its abandonment in 1945, Battery Chapin has stood as an intriguing relic of the past. The surrounding land has since been transformed into Fort Foster Park, a public park that welcomes visitors to explore the remnants of history. While no guns or mounts remain at Battery Chapin, there is much to discover.
Visitors are encouraged to explore the small storage rooms on the battery's first floor before ascending the stairs to the second floor, where the guns were once mounted. Despite the absence of guns, the structure continues to captivate visitors with its historical significance, offering panoramic views of Portsmouth Harbor and the ocean. The lookout room is also open for exploration.
To visit Battery Chapin today, a large parking lot at Fort Foster Park is available at the end of Pocahontas Road in the Kittery Point neighborhood. During the summer months, a $20 parking fee per vehicle is applicable. Between Memorial Day and 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 is open, and no fees are collected at the booth. Battery Chapin, along with other historical structures in Fort Foster Park, invites visitors to step back in time and connect with a vital chapter in America's coastal defense history.