Jamestown, Rhode Island

Battery Varnum, an abandoned coastal gun battery, stands as a historical relic within the present-day Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Location Added By:

Tom Riley (GoXplr Account)

About This Location

Battery Varnum, an abandoned reinforced concrete coastal gun battery, stands as a historical relic within the present-day Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown, Rhode Island. This battery, constructed during the Endicott Period, played a crucial role in the nation's coastal defense. Let's delve into the history and significance of Battery Varnum.

The Endicott Period and Modernization

The Civil War had rendered masonry forts and smoothbore cannons obsolete, prompting the US government to seek modern defense solutions. In 1885, the Endicott Board was established, leading to the development of the Endicott system between 1890 and 1910, which remained in use until 1945.

During this Endicott Period, the government assessed the Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay and recommended numerous improvements. In 1900, Fort Wetherill in Jamestown, Rhode Island, was officially established, marked by the construction of various structures, including Battery Varnum.

Construction and Armament

Construction on Battery Varnum commenced in June 1898 and was completed in August 1899. It was acquired by the Coast Artillery on February 15, 1901. The battery was originally equipped with two 12-inch M1888 guns mounted on M1892 Barbette carriages. The battery featured two stories: the lower level housed two magazines for storing shells and powder, while the upper level mounted the two guns. To facilitate the movement of shells from the magazine to the guns, two front-loading Taylor-Raymond electric shell hoists were installed, albeit later in 1907.

Battery Varnum was named in honor of Major General James Mitchell Varnum, an American legislator, lawyer, Continental Army general, and an influential figure in the Ohio Country. His leadership during the American Revolution was particularly notable in Rhode Island.

World War I and II

The involvement of the United States in World War I led to the extensive removal of large-caliber coastal defense gun tubes for use in Europe. While many guns were modified and mounted on mobile carriages or stored at arsenals, Battery Varnum was not affected by this redistribution of guns during World War I or the subsequent disarmament program in 1920.

During World War II, Battery Varnum was deemed unnecessary and was ordered to be closed. The guns and carriages were salvaged, and the battery was subsequently abandoned after their removal.

What Remains Today

Today, the abandoned Battery Varnum is located within Fort Wetherill State Park, which was opened to the public in 1972. The park houses seven gun batteries, including Battery Varnum. Visitors are welcome to explore both the exterior and interior of Battery Varnum. As of 2023, many doors are open, and stairways allow access to all levels of the battery.

However, as an abandoned structure, caution is crucial when exploring Battery Varnum. The battery has become a canvas for graffiti.

Parking facilities are available, with approximately two dozen free parking spots located near Battery Varnum at the end of Fort Wetherill Road, making it accessible for those eager to uncover its historical significance. Additional parking can be found throughout the state park. The park gets busy during the summer so it is wise to visit during the off-season to avoid crowds.

Location Features

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Fort Wetherill Road, Jamestown, Rhode Island

GPS Coordinates:
41.477806, -71.358500
Directions to location:
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Directions to parking area:
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Parking Notes:
There are about two dozen free parking spots located right near the fort at the end of Fort Wetherill Road. Parking is free and additional parking can be found within the park.


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