About This Location
Battery Hawley is an abandoned coastal gun battery in Phippsburg, Maine. It was built in 1908 to help defend the coast of Maine and the Kennebec River. The historic military installation now sits abandoned on the top of Sabino Hill. It is one of three coastal gun batteries located in the Fort Baldwin State Historic Site. To learn more about the 8-acre historic site and what remains today, be sure to visit our Fort Baldwin page.
The history of Battery Hawley
Construction of Battery Hawley began in 1905 and it was completed in 1908. The structure was named after Joseph Hawley. Hawley was an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. The coastal gun battery was created during a time known as the Endicott Period. The Endicott Period was started by Secretary of War, William C. Endicott in 1890. For many years, Endicott argued that the coast of the US needed more security. In 1890, the government approved many projects to boost security. For two decades tens of millions of dollars were spent to have cannons, mortars, coastal gun batteries, submarine mines, and other defenses built.
Battery Hawley was constructed to defend the mid-coast section of Maine. It is situated at the top of Sabino Hill which allows it to have sweeping views of the entrance to the Kennebec River and beyond. The Kennebec River was a key river to have secured. Firstly, many communities are located along the shores of the river, including major cities such as Bath and Augusta. Additionally, the Bath Iron Works is located just a few miles upriver from the entrance. This shipyard was extremely important to defend considering it is a major supplier of boats for the navy. The Bath Iron Works even continues producing world-class iron ships today.
To defend the river, Battery Hawley was equipped with two 6-inch M1900 guns placed on M1900 Pedestal mounts. During the first World War, from 1914 to 1917, the battery was staffed. It is unknown how many people operated Battery Hawley. That said, there were approximately 100 artillerists stationed at Fort Baldwin during WW1. It is safe to assume a few dozen men operated this specific battery.
Thankfully, the battery never had to fire a single round. Interestingly, the 6-inch M1900 guns were scheduled to be sent overseas in 1917 to help Europe allies during the war. Battery Hawley’s guns were removed and placed on a railcar, but ultimately were not needed. The war ended in 1918 and the guns were returned to the battery and re-mounted. After tensions around the world had died down, the battery was no longer deemed necessary by the government. It was officially deactivated in 1924 and ownership was transferred to the state of Maine.
What remains today
Today, Battery Hawley stands abandoned and is slowly crumbling. After it was acquired by the state of Maine following WWI, it was unclear what the state would do with it. Originally, locals thought the fort would be torn down. For many years, nothing was done. During WW2, the military took control of Fort Baldwin, but no changes occurred to Battery Hawley. In 1949, following WW2, the land was turned back over to the state of Maine.
On August 3, 1979, the battery was added to the National Register of Historic Places with reference number 79000166. This is an enormous distinction and it means that the facility and surrounding land will be preserved for years to come. Following 1979, the state of Maine began welcoming locals and tourists to explore the abandoned remains of the old fort. A parking area was paved on Fort Baldwin Road and a trail was created to lead visitors up to see the structure. Additionally, several informational posters were added to allow people to comprehend the intriguing history of the area.
Visitors can explore all around Battery Hawley. It is exciting to walk around the gun emplacements where the M1900s were once mounted. There are also pipes, air ducts, and stairways around the structure. Furthermore, there’s a small observation post and several different rooms on the ground level. Some of these rooms even have fireplaces! It is a fascinating structure to explore and it will surely have you speculating about what life was like for the individuals stationed there many decades ago. As of 2022, the fort’s doors are open and visitors are welcome to explore inside.
The trail to Battery Hawley
The hike up to the battery is quick and easy. Parking is available at the trailhead located along Fort Baldwin Road. The hike up to the fort is just 0.25 miles and takes about 8 minutes. Round trip, the trail is 0.50 miles and the elevational gain is 80 feet. The trail is rated as easy and dogs are always welcome. Some visitors report the trail to be wheelchair accessible, but it may be a bit of a bumpy ride.