In My Footsteps
Trip 126: Kittery, Maine
October 5, 2011
Although it is probably known more for its outlet shops Kittery has a strong historical significance as well. The oldest town in Maine was originally settled in the 1620’s and became a town in 1647. Ironically when most towns in the Colonies were being named for towns in England Kittery was actually named for a house. It was named for the Manor of Kittery Court in Devon, England. That home still stands to this day. Of course I am not one to tell visitors to pass up the Kittery Outlets. Still, after paying a visit to the acres of shops spread on both sides of Rt. 1 there are many other interesting things to see.
|The view from inside the Block House.|
I started off my time in Kittery with an amazing old fort. Fort McClary sits on the northern shore of Portsmouth Harbor. There is a panoramic view of Portsmouth Lighthouse, Fort Constitution, and Whaleback Lighthouse along with many boats in the harbor during the warmer seasons. The first fortifications on the site dated back to the late 17th century and were erected by wealthy landowner Sir William Pepperell. The fort itself was built in 1808. It fell into severe disrepair in the early 20th century. The state of Maine purchased the fort and the land in 1924. The badly damaged buildings were torn down. The surviving buildings including the Block House were repaired in the 1980’s.
Unlike many of the forts I have visited I was actually able to go inside one of the main buildings. The Block House, a white hexagonal building built in between 1844-46, was wide open. It now serves as a museum. The view from up inside the Block House is incredible. The vantage point must be more than fifty feet above the water level if I had to guess. I took my time and enjoyed the views before leaving one fort behind, there was another one that I needed to visit later.
|Rice Public Library|
In between forts I took in some of the other sites that Kittery had to offer. Although I don’t frequent them I am fascinated by how many public libraries are housed in amazing looking buildings. That is the case with the Rice Library on Wentworth Street. The library building looks much like ones I have seen in Easton and Fairhaven, Massachusetts. The Rice Library has some of the same styles as many other Henry Hobson Richardson buildings despite not being created by the famed 19th century architect.
I was particularly excited about my visit to Fort Foster. Located on Gerrish Island in Kittery this historic site has more than just a fort. During my trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Fort Constitution I had noticed another lighthouse located across the harbor. That was Whaleback Lighthouse and I knew I needed to pay it a visit during a future trip.
|Whaleback Lighthouse on the left at Fort Foster.|
On this day the gates to Fort Foster were closed so I had to park outside and walk in. Also it had been a beautifully sunny day but dark clouds had rolled in and it began to rain heavily. I had been planning my Kittery trip for months so a little rain, or a lot of rain, was not going to stop me. Plus the skies were still mostly blue which made me believe that a rainbow would be possible once the rains stopped.
People were fleeing the rain while I walked out. The fort was built in the 1870’s making it the last ‘old’ fort built in the area. As the rain was still falling I made my way out onto a very long pier. It was here that I got the closest view of Whaleback Lighthouse. The fifty-foot tall structure was built in 1872. The Whaleback name refers to a jagged stretch of rocks, a continuation of Gerrish Island completely underwater at high tide. Though it is often considered a New Hampshire lighthouse it is located about 1,500 feet into Maine’s waters.
|The rainbow which came out while at Fort Foster.|
There is also a unique house situated on some rocks near the lighthouse as well but I was unable to find any information about its significance. It was while I was standing out on the pier that the rain let up and the sun came back out. Sure enough a rainbow began to form. I was able to see the entirety of the rainbow from where I stood. For a short time there was even a second rainbow which formed. It made my walk out there in the rain worth it.
I had an awesome time in Kittery. The pair of old forts were just what I was interested in seeing. I highly recommend checking them out even if you decide to spend most of your time shopping at the Kittery Outlets. The oldest town in Maine has so much to offer and I am so glad I got to see it. Have fun and happy traveling!
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Directions: Fort McClary: Take I-95 N through New Hampshire into Maine. Take Exit 2 to merge onto Rt. 236 S. At the rotary take the 3rd exit to stay on Rt. 236. Follow it 1.1 miles, continue onto Whipple Rd., continue onto Pepperrell Rd. Follow it .5 miles, the fort is on the right.
Fort Foster: Take I-95 N through New Hampshire into Maine. Take Exit 2 to merge onto Rt. 236 S. At the rotary take the 3rd exit to stay on Rt. 236. Follow it 1.1 miles, continue onto Whipple Rd., continue onto Pepperrell Rd. Follow it 1.5 miles, continue onto Tenney Hill Road. Continue onto Brave Boat Harbor Rd., follow it .2 miles, turn right onto Gerrish Island Rd. Turn right onto Pocahontas Rd., follow it 1.1 miles, keep right at the fork in the road. The fort and lighthouse are straight ahead.
References: The Kittery Outlets.com