Fort Dearborn // 1943-1961

Odiorne Point in Rye New Hampshire was owned by the Odiorne Family from at least 1800, when the family built a farmhouse on the land. The peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Portsmouth, and it was seen as a strategic position by the United States Government, to protect the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. With the advent of World War II, the United States Government deemed it necessary to improve the fortifications commanding the approaches to the Portsmouth Navy Yard, so the Government acquired this property and named it Fort Dearborn. Giant 16” coast defense guns and other equipment were installed to protect the coast from the impending German advance into North America. The Government acquisition on Odiorne’s Point included Mr. Odiorne’s home and 24 other properties, with many fine old homes on the coast demolished to make way for military facilities, but the Odiorne house was converted to a barracks. When The Nazi forces were beat in Europe, the fort was deactivated and all the guns were removed. In the Cold War period, the U.S. Air Force took formal possession of 45.3 acres at Odiorne’s Point in 1955, which it had been using since 1949 as the Rye Air Force Station. By 1961, the defensive use of the site was not as important, and the site was sold to the State of New Hampshire as a State Park. Today, you can explore the park and the decaying concrete batteries up close, which is a favorite excursion of mine.

Fort McClary

Originally called Fort William after William Pepperell, who owned much of the land which is known today as Kittery Point, this fortification was constructed on high ground at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. Some sources state that the fort was additionally intended to protect Maine (then part of Massachusetts) from “unreasonable duties” (taxes) that the Governor of New Hampshire was attempting to impose on citizens receiving goods via the river, which straddles the two states. After the Revolution, the fortification was transferred to the United States government, and later renamed Fort McClary, after a New Hampshire native Major Andrew McClary, an American officer killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill. None of its original features or earthworks are known to remain from this period.

Map of current Fort McClary structures.

The largest building period at the fort occurred in the 1840s, when the large hexagonal blockhouse was built atop a raised granite block first story. Additional outbuildings were constructed including: a barracks, powder magazine, a rifleman’s house and more. My favorite and relatively hidden structure as part of the fort complex is the caponier (also labeled as a bastion). The structure is subterranean and features massive brick vaulted ceilings. The fort and buildings are part of a State Parks system in Maine.