Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fort Scammel on House Island, Maine

St. Croix at House Island Pier
St. Croix at House Island Pier
Visited 3 Jul 2012 - Fort Scammel (1808-1898) was originally built as a Second System coastal fort and later modified as a Third System fort during the Civil War. The fort sits on House Island in Casco Bay just off Portland, Maine. House Island is a private island and tours of the fort are given by, and under the auspices of the island's owner. Hal is not only the island owner and tour guide, he is also is the tour boat captain, ferry boat captain and sometimes postmaster.
Fort Scammel, West Bastion (left), South Bastion (center), East Bastion (right)
Fort Scammel, West Bastion (left), South Bastion (center), East Bastion (right)


Sallyport Entrance
Sallyport Entrance
The tour of the fort began at Long Wharf on the Portland waterfront where we boarded the St. Croix for the short trip to the island. The crew consisted of Captain Hal and his sister Karen. We disembarked at the pier on House Island and briefly stopped at the old Immigration Station administration building before making our way to the old fort sallyport entrance. The fort today is frozen in time in the 1870s when the Third System construction ended so what you see is a combination of Civil War and post Civil War construction. There are few traces of the Second System fort to be seen and nothing remains of the original blockhouse.
East Bastion Stone Steps to Lower Level
East Bastion Stone Steps to Lower Level


The tour goes through the Sallyport directly to the tunnel mouth leading into the east bastion of the fort. The two major bastions, one on the east side (2 story) and one on the west side (1 story), were original designed to be one story taller than they are and open in the back. The design was modified to reduce them by one story and to fully enclose them along with their magazines. The mix of construction types and material is very interesting and the effect on entry through the tunnel is that you are in a castle dudgeon. 


East Bastion Casemates
East Bastion Casemates
The tunnel descends to a point that was initially designed to be the open back of the bastion and from here you can take a spiral staircase to the upper level or two stone staircases to the lower level. The upper and lower tiers of casemates have the traditional Third System fort look but the central core of the bastion is still very different.

The tour exits the east bastion at it's top and continues along the parapet of the fort until it reaches the parade ground. From there we made our way past the incomplete north bastion back to the administration building and the boat dock. By the time we returned to Long Wharf over three hours had passed.
Fort Scammel Parade
Fort Scammel Parade



View of East Bastion and Casco Bay 
One of the most impressive things things about Fort Scammel is how well it is maintained and operated. Hal and his sister Karen do it all, maintenance, grounds keeping, tours, security, everything, and you could not ask for a better tour guide. The fort itself is in great shape, clean and graffiti free, all reflecting the pride of the owners. They sandwiched all this between the two daily ferry trips from Portland to Cushing Island that they operate over the summer season.






The fort and the island are currently listed for sale for $4.85 million. Hopefully any new owners will be as great a steward of the island as Hal and Karen.


Visit the Fort Scammel Page on FortWiki.com for more information and pictures.

John


1 comment:

  1. Had a great tour.Hal is really knowledgable about the fort history. We have visited many forts since being in Maine. Onward to Vermont.

    Amy, your forting tag a long.

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