The Fort McClary State Historic Site has stood its ground for more than 275 years. It was built to protect enemy approaches towards the Piscataqua River near the southern gateway to Kittery, Maine. It was named after Major Andrew McClary, who was a native to New Hampshire. He died heroically in the Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War. The fort still stands as one of the most historic forts in all of Maine. It has done an excellent job of preserving the military history and changes in military architecture as well as military technology. It offers visitors access to not only a well known historical site, but also an excellent museum.
The site itself dates back to the late 17th century when Sir William Pepperell, a wealthy land owner, erected a crude defensive structure. Later in 1715, the Massachusetts Bay Colony created a permanent breastwork of six cannons for defense of the Piscataqua River.
Fort McClary was officially built in 1808. Between 1808 and 1868 Fort McClary saw numerous additions including the blockhouse, barracks, rifleman’s house, and granite walls. All of these features where built in separate stages and share a unique perspective into military architecture. There were further plans to expand the fort to make it more similar to its other Maine brethren, such as Fort Knox. However, as military structures and weaponry continued to advance, Fort McClary eventually became obsolete.
In the 1910’s, the fort as a whole had fallen into severe disrepair and its condition caused the fort to be officially abandoned in 1918. During its stint of active use, it was minimally used during the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. The State of Maine purchased the property from the Federal Government in 1924. Soon after, many of the dilapidated structures were tore down and never replaced. Civilian forces decided to use the remaining portions as a potential defensive structure during WWII. Today, only the blockhouse remains intact and standing and has been turned into a museum in 1987.
Today, the Fort McClary State Historic Site only serves as an educational tool for visitors from around the country, but also as an excellent seascape. Many people come to the Northeast, and specifically Maine, for the idealized scene of the ocean crashing on a coastline of treacherous black rocks and cliffs. However, many of these spots along coastal Maine have been turned into high-volume tourist areas and many people are shocked to see how landlocked many of these places actually are. The Fort McClary State Historic Site gives visitors a rare chance to see the iconic Maine coastline the way nature intended.