About This Location
Battery Edward Kirk is an abandoned reinforced concrete coastal gun battery in present-day Fort Stark State Historic Site in New Castle, New Hampshire. It was built during the Endicott Period and was originally equipped with two 6-inch M1903 guns mounted on M1903 Disappearing carriages. It was named in honor of Brigadier General Edward N. Kirk who was part of the U.S. Volunteers. Today, the battery is part of a park and is open to the public for viewing.
Battery Edward Kirk Establishment
The Endicott Period of Coastal Fortifications refers to a period of coastal defense in the United States that began in the late 19th century and continued until the early 20th century. During this time, a system of coastal defenses was built along the country’s coastline, including the construction of coastal gun batteries. These batteries were named after William C. Endicott, who served as the Secretary of War under President Grover Cleveland. The construction of these coastal defenses was prompted by fears of foreign invasion, particularly by European powers.
Construction of Battery Edward Kirk in New Castle, New Hampshire began 1903 and it was completed the following year in 1904. On December 31, 1904, the coastal gun battery was transferred to the Coast Artilery and put into service as part of Fort Stark. Fort Stark occupies the southeastern tip of New Castle Island on a plot of land often referred to as Jerry’s Point. The fort was fortified in 1746 and went through many re-developments.
Battery Edward Kirk was situated at the fort to have sweeping views of the ocean. It was built to protect the city of Portsmouth which is home to the important Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. To protect the coast, Battery Edward Kirk was equipped with two 6-inch M1903 guns mounted on M1903 Disappearing carriages. These guns were produced at the Watervliet Arsenal in New York and had the capability of firing projectiles nearly 10 miles. Speaking of firing projectiles, the shells and powder where stored in two magazines on the same floor as the guns. No shell or powder hoists were installed, so all equipment was moved by hand.
Battery Edward Kirk During WW1
During World War I, the United States shut down many of its coastal gun batteries and sent their guns to Europe to aid in the war effort. The decision to do so was made in response to urgent requests from the Allied powers, who were in desperate need of artillery to fight the war. The coastal gun batteries were deemed less critical to the defense of the United States, as the threat of a naval invasion was considered low at the time. The guns from the coastal batteries were removed and sent overseas, where they were used in battles.
On August 24, 1917, Battery Kirk’s 6-inch guns received a dismount order for duty abroad. On September 28, 1917, they were transported to the Watervliet Arsenal in New York for conversion to mobile mounts. In 1918, both guns arrived in France, and they were sent back to America in 1919. After returning to the United States, they were not remounted at Battery Kirk. It was then decommissioned and abandoned.
Battery Edward Kirk During WW2
Following the de-arming of Battery Edward Kirk during World War 1, it was unlikely it would ever be used again. But, when World War 2 began, the military thought of a way to use the then-abandoned structure. Due to its unique position, the structure was seen as a great vantage point for a control post. Starting in 1943, the military began constructing a combined harbor Entrance Control Post and a Harbor Defense Command Post. These were built inside the decomissioned batteries magazine and also above it. Three floors were built above the magazine to create the observation station and a radar was placed on top this new structure. To avoid being spotted by enemies, the military disguised the structure as a modernistic building with camouflaged paint. It seemed to look like a ship and not a lookout post. The Coast Artillery accepted the structure and put it into service on January 10, 1944.
Decommissioned and Abandoned
Following World War 2, the battery was once again decommissioned and abandoned. The development of new military technologies such as aircraft carriers, guided missiles, and nuclear weapons rendered many of the gun batteries, including Battery Edward Kirk, obsolete. In addition, the cost of maintaining these facilities and their outdated equipment was deemed too high for the military to justify.
What Remains Today
Today, this modified coastal gun battery can be seen at the Fort Stark Historic Site in New Castle, New Hampshire. It has sat abandoned for decades and, of course, no longer has its guns or mounts. That said, there are still so many interesting things to see at the battery. For example, this is the only gun battery with a three story ship-like observation post in the world. Additionally, the two gun emplacements can still be seen.
Sadly, visitors cannot get too close to the structure due to a fence which surrounds it. This is the only gun battery at Fort Stark Historic Site that is fenced off, but it is for good reason. The observation station is not in good shape and could collapse due to the lack of maintenance. Additionally, there may be asbestos and other chemicals inside which are toxic to humans. It is best to admire this one and not attempt to go inside.