About This Location
Nestled within the waters of Portland Harbor, on what was once the desolate Hog Island, stands Fort Gorges. Named in honor of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, this formidable structure completely covers the island's barren rock, offering a remarkable testament to mid-nineteenth-century military architecture.
Constructed entirely from sturdy granite, with some interior brickwork, Fort Gorges is crowned with earthen ramparts, adding an imposing touch to its design. The fort features two-story gun galleries along its southern, eastern, and western walls, providing accommodations for fifty-six short-range guns. Additional weaponry could be positioned atop the earthen ramparts. Notably, the northern wall, intriguingly, only boasts rifle slits, seemingly designed without consideration for potential flanking.
The construction of Fort Gorges commenced in 1858, making it the third in a series of forts erected to safeguard Portland Harbor, following the likes of Fort Preble and Scammell. Captain Casey of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, drawing inspiration from Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, oversaw its construction. Reuben Small, who had previously worked on Fort Knox in Penobscot, served as the chief stonemason, dedicating seven years of his life to the fort's completion.
Remarkably, despite its completion in 1864, Fort Gorges never witnessed active garrisoning. The changing tides of military technology rendered it obsolete before it could be put to use. A Civil War veteran became its appointed caretaker, residing within the spacious officers' quarters alongside his family.
However, Fort Gorges found purpose during World War I when the Navy employed it for the storage of mines and munitions. Following the conflict, a New York firm dismantled the guns for scrap metal. World War II once again saw the fort repurposed, serving as a storage site for mines, cables, nets, and anti-submarine equipment.
In 1960, the U.S. government bestowed Fort Gorges upon the City of Portland. Some restorative efforts took place at this juncture, kindling hopes for ongoing preservation.
The significance of Fort Gorges lies not in battles fought or troops stationed but in its remarkable state of preservation. It stands today as an excellent exemplar of mid-nineteenth-century fortification, despite the curious choice of rifle slits on its north wall.
Today, Fort Gorges rests in the middle of Portland Harbor, abandoned and isolated. It has become a favorite destination for urban explorers and history enthusiasts. The future of Fort Gorges remains uncertain, but it is currently open to the public. The catch is that visitors must provide their own boats or watercraft, as no public transportation is available to access this historic sentinel of the past. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 28, 1973. It's reference number, assigned by the National Park Service, is 73000114.