Fort McClary State Park, Maine


Fort McClary seems like an unlikely last stop at the end of a vacation, but it looked appealing as I drove towards the Maine/New Hampshire state line. And, I had just enough time to squeeze in one more stop, before making a bee-line for the Manchester airport.

Fort McClary occupies some beautiful real estate.  The old fort overlooks the mouth of the Piscataqua River…

… which means when you look out over the water, you’re looking into New Hampshire.  This site has been used as a strategic military post since 1689.

These granite blocks might give you the impression that a mighty wall once stood here, and it has since fallen apart.  But the truth is, it was never completely built.  Work ceased on the wall in 1868, with many of the granite blocks left lying around.

There is a granite/earth wall that’s still in good condition.  Construction began on it in 1808, around the time that Fort McClary received its name.  Prior to 1808, it was known as Fort Pepperrell (named for a wealthy land owner who owned the land in the late 1600’s) and Fort William (built by the Massachusetts Bay Colony around 1715-1720, armed with six guns).

The Block House is Fort McClary’s most noticeable feature.  It was built in 1844, and was the last one to be built in Maine.

The block house is open to visitors.  It’s an oddly shaped, six-sided building.

In addition to a great view…

… and a strange staircase…

… the blockhouse also houses an 1820 cannon, similar to one that would have been used in the Block House when it was built, in 1844.

There are other buildings near the Block House, including the Magazine (in the foreground) and the Rifleman’s House (on the left).

Behind the other buildings is the Bastion (for Howitzers) and Powder Magazine.  The fort’s well is in the middle.

You can take this staircase down into the damp and dark Caponier.  It’s a small room…

… with narrow windows, for use as rifle ports in the event of an attack.

It might be a little soggy if it has rained recently.  The Caponier must have been one of the last features added to Fort McClary — a sign over the staircase reads 1864-1868, presumably the years during which it was constructed.

America’s 15th Vice-President served at Fort McClary in 1864.  Maine native Hannibal Hamlin was called to duty and served here, despite being Abraham Lincoln’s VP at the time.  Hamlin narrowly missed being president — when Lincoln ran for a second term, he had a different running mate, Andrew Johnson, who took office when Lincoln was assassinated.

Admission to Fort McClary is $3 (Maine residents, $2).  You have to drop the money in an envelope, so make sure you have correct change.

You’ll find much more information on the history of Fort McClary here and here.

Fort McClary is on Maine Rte. 103.  From I-95, take exit 1, then head south/east and follow Rte. 103 for 3 miles.  If you’re taking the same route as my trip, and following US 1 south, watch for the Rte. 103 turnoff in York Harbor.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a dash-cam, time-lapse video of the drive from Cape Neddick to Portsmouth, New Hampshire:

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