About This Location
Nestled within the picturesque landscape of Fort Foster Park in Kittery, Maine, the Fort Foster Fire Control Tower stands as a silent sentinel to a pivotal period in American history. This World War II-era structure, officially known as the Battery Commander's Command Post and Observation Station, played a critical role in enhancing the coastal defenses of the United States during the war.
A Glimpse into Fort Foster's Rich History
The history of Fort Foster dates back to 1872 when the U.S. federal government acquired the land. It was during the large-scale Endicott Program, implemented from 1898 to 1904, that Fort Foster experienced significant development. The overarching objective of the Endicott Period was to fortify coastal defenses across the United States, especially in strategically significant areas. Fort Foster, located on the southwest tip of Gerrish Island in Kittery Point, was integral to protecting the coastline and safeguarding the entrance to the Piscataqua River. This defensive strategy was crucial for the protection of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the city of Portsmouth, and other vital assets in the region.
During the Endicott Period, two notable batteries, Battery Edward Chapin and Battery Henry Bohlen, were constructed, completing in 1902 and 1904, respectively. Fort Foster was designated a sub-post of Fort Constitution and was named in honor of Brevet Major General John G. Foster, a distinguished figure from New Hampshire during the American Civil War.
The Role of Fort Foster Fire Control Tower in World War II
World War II ushered in a new era of developments at Fort Foster, with the addition of Battery 205. It was during this time that the Fort Foster Fire Control Tower came into prominence. The tower was a crucial element in aiding Battery 205 in identifying any potential coastal threats.
Construction of Battery 205 commenced in 1942, with completion in 1944. Initially, the battery was designed to be equipped with two 6-inch T2-M1 rapid-fire guns, but these guns were never mounted due to the waning days of the war. Instead, two mobile 40mm anti-aircraft guns and two 50 caliber heavy machine guns were installed in their place.
For Battery 205 and other coastal gun batteries of its era, the Fort Foster Fire Control Tower served as a vital source of coordinates and attack orders. The tower stood six stories tall, with the first four stories containing stairs. The upper two stories housed observation posts that provided commanding views of the surrounding area. Equipped with a range of instruments, the personnel stationed in the tower could accurately determine the coordinates of potential threats. The tower's official designation as the Battery Commander's Command Post and Observation Station reflected its essential role in directing the battery's fire.
Post-War Legacy and Visit to the Fire Control Tower
Following World War II, the Fort Foster Fire Control Tower was abandoned. The land surrounding the tower was eventually transformed into Fort Foster Park. Today, visitors to the park can explore the vicinity of the fire control tower and nearby Battery 205. Unfortunately, the tower itself is not open to the public.
To visit the tower and explore the historical remnants at Fort Foster, visitors can utilize the park's large parking lot. During the summer months, a $20 parking fee per vehicle is applicable. The park is open seven days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. During the off-season, the parking lot is open, and no fees are collected at the booth.
The Fort Foster Fire Control Tower stands as a testament to America's commitment to coastal defense during World War II, and its presence in the scenic landscape of Fort Foster Park offers a unique opportunity to connect with this historical legacy.