About This Location
Battery Keyes is an abandoned coastal gun battery that can be found on Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The battery was constructed in 1905 during the Endicott Period and was abandoned after World War 2. Today, visitors are welcome to walk around the abandoned structure.
Battery Keyes Establishment
In the late 19th century, concerns over the strength of coastal defenses in the United States prompted action. Under President Grover Cleveland's administration and Secretary of War William C. Endicott's leadership, the Board of Fortifications was established in 1885. This joint army, navy, and civilian board recommended a substantial $127 million construction program for coastal defenses, including breechloading cannons, mortars, floating batteries, and underground mines. Among the areas targeted for improvement was the Harbor Defenses of Portland, Maine. This period, known as the Endicott Period, spanned from 1890 to 1910.
In 1899, the government began acquiring land around Portland Head Lighthouse, eventually naming the area Fort Williams. Several gun batteries were constructed, along with various structures like officers' quarters and hospitals.
Construction and Features of Battery Keyes
Construction of Battery Keyes commenced in 1903 and concluded in 1905. It was officially transferred to the Coast Artillery for use on April 27, 1906. The battery was a two-story structure, featuring two magazines on the first level and two 3-inch M1902MI guns mounted on M1902MI Pedestal carriages on the second level. Interestingly, there was no shell hoist in place, necessitating the manual transport of shells from the magazines to the guns. Additionally, the battery included a fire control station at its center and a range finder station to the east.
The Battery During WW1 and WW2
With the United States entering World War I and a strategy to support allies in Europe, guns from coastal batteries were removed and intended for overseas deployment. However, only a few guns were actually sent abroad, while others were stored at arsenals. Battery Keyes was not impacted by the redistribution program during WW1 or the subsequent disarmament program in 1920.
During World War II, Battery Keyes continued to play a role in the Harbor Defenses of Portland, with its guns on alert for potential threats. When the war concluded in 1945, the battery was declared surplus, and orders were received to salvage its carriages and guns on October 18, 1945.
What Remains Today
Today, visitors can explore the remnants of Battery Keyes, which can be found in Fort Williams State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, just west of Portland Head Lighthouse. While the original weapons and mounts are no longer present, the concrete core of the battery remains in relatively good condition. Many of the doors leading to the first-level rooms are open for exploration, offering a glimpse into this historic structure
Parking and Further Exploration
Fort Williams State Park boasts over a thousand parking spaces. The closest parking lot to Battery Keyes can be found by taking the first left after entering the park. There is a large parking area right along the beach there. Visitors can utilize a self-service parking station to pay for parking during their visit.
After exploring Battery Keyes, be sure to discover other attractions within the park, including the iconic Portland Head Lighthouse and intriguing abandoned structures like the Goddard Mansion, Fort Williams Central Powderhouse, and Battery Garesche. Fort Williams State Park offers a fascinating journey through history and natural beauty.