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.
Battery Keyes Establishment
After being completed in 1791, Portland Head Lighthouse stood alone on Cape Elizabeth’s coasts for many years. But after several decades, the government began to question the strength of its coastal defenses. Under the leadership of Secretary of War William C. Endicott, US President Grover Cleveland established the Board of Fortifications in 1885 as a joint army, navy, and civilian board. The board’s conclusions in its 1886 report provided a dismal picture of the state of existing defenses. For around 29 locations along the US coastline, they proposed a massive $127 million construction program for breechloading cannons, mortars, floating batteries, and underground mines. One of these places needing improvement was the Harbor Defenses of Portland, Maine. The Endicott Period lasted from 1890-1910.
The government began acquiring land surrounding Portland Head Light and in 1899, the area was officially named Fort Williams. Several gun batteries were built and many additional structures including officers’ quarters, hospitals, and more followed.
Construction on Battery Keyes began in 1903 and was completed in 1905. It was officially transferred to the Coast Artillery for use on April 27, 1906. The battery stood two stories tall. There were two magazines located on the first level and the second level was home to the two 3-inch M1902MI guns mounted on M1902MI Pedestal carriages. No shell hoist was installed at this battery which meant that shells would have to be transported to the guns from the magazines by hand. Additionally, there was a fire control station situated in the middle of the battery and a range finder station just to the east.
The Battery During WW1 and WW2
When the United States entered WW1, it sought to strengthen its allies overseas in Europe. One strategy was to remove the guns of the coastal batteries in the US and ship them to Europe. Many batteries had their guns removed during the 1910s with plans for them to be shipped overseas. Ultimately, only a few of the guns from US batteries were actually shipped out. Many were just stored at Arsenals. The guns of Battery Keyes were not affected by the WW1 redistribution program or the following disarmament program of 1920.
During World War 2, Battery Keyes remained a part of the Harbor Defenses of Portland. Its guns were on alert for any foreign enemies. When the war ended in 1945, the battery was declared surplus by the government. Orders for the carriages and guns to be salvaged were received on October 18, 1945.
What Remains Today
Today, Battery Keyes can be found in Fort Williams State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The battery can be found just west of Portland Head Lighthouse. There are no original weapons or mounts at the battery, but the concrete core is in pretty good shape. Fortunately, many of the doors leading into the first level rooms of the battery are open. Additionally, the range finder station is completely open. It is fun to glance inside this obscure war structure.
- Year Established: 1906
- Year Abandoned: 1945
- Original Function: World War 2 coastal gun battery
Battery Keyes Location
- Address: Shore Road
- Town: Cape Elizabeth
- State: Maine
- GPS: Lat 43.6270 Lng -70.2126
- Parking notes: There are well over a thousand parking spaces in Fort Williams Park. If you take the first left after entering the park, you will come across a large parking area and see Battery Keyes in the distance. This is the closest parking lot to the battery.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE