K = Kennebec Arsenal

Kennebec Arsenal, Wikipedia
Kennebec Arsenal, Wikipedia

The Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta was built between 1828 and 1838, as a  result of the Northeast Boundary Controversy (1820-1842), a border dispute with neighboring New Brunswick, Canada. The Arsenal is the most intact, early nineteenth century munitions depot in the United States, a complex of eight granite buildings on a commanding location on the east bank of the Kennebec River. It is significant as the best surviving example of an early nineteenth century military complex and was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2000.

I can see Jack dancing around on its grounds while Rhe pokes her nose into every nook and cranny.

The War of 1812 had demonstrated the need for the United States to better defend its coast

Granite building of the Kennebec Arsenal with windows boarded up
Granite building of the Kennebec Arsenal with windows boarded up

against potential foreign attacks, so the federal government embarked on a large-scale development of coastal and border fortifications. Since Maine had had some of its communities occupied during the war and was engaged in the continuing border dispute with New Brunswick, this particular site was singled out for the building and garrisoning of an arsenal. Its situation on the east bank of the Kennebec River was chosen in part for its ready access by boat, and plans were first drafted in 1827.

The commandant’s and officer quarters, barracks, stables, a carriage shop, and the main armory were built between 1828 and 1832, with most of the major structures constructed from granite. After 1832, the quarters were enlarged in Greek Revival styling, and the large and small magazines were built, along with a perimeter fence of granite and iron.

When both Maine and New Brunswick organized militias to send to the disputed region in 1838, the situation reached a crisis level. The US government sent General Winfield Scott of the arsenal and he negotiated a stand-down with the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, John Harvey, who was a personal friend. The border was fixed at its present location by the 1842 Webster- Ashburton Treaty.

Kennebec Arsenal Andy Malloy Portland Press HeraldThe importance of the arsenal declined after this, and because of its comparatively remote location, it was deemed unsuitable for the large-scale production of weapons. It was closed in 1900 and turned over to the State of Maine as an expansion of the Maine State Hospital to house mental patients. All the wooden structures were torn down and the granite buildings were adapted for the hospital’s use. The Maine State Hospital, later renamed the Augusta Mental Health Institute, closed its doors in 2004, and the arsenal property was sold to a developer, with historic preservation restrictions.    Kennebec Arsenal 3 Joe Phelan Kennebec Journal Morning Sentinal

The arsenal was slated for renovations shortly after that, but when no work was done, the property deteriorated and vandals broke windows and sprayed graffiti on the walls. The owner claimed that the poor economy hampered efforts to renovate and maintain the property, but the Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit in 2013, seeking return of the property to the State.

Workers replace the roof on the South Burleigh building at the Kennebec Arsenal Photo by Joe StantonAt this point, a $12,000 roof was installed on the gatehouse, and electricity was restored to at least some of the site, enabling security cameras to function. By November 2013, five of the six buildings on the site had new roofs or were in the process of getting them. Windows were sealed or temporarily boarded up, along with other work. The owner intends to turn the gatehouse into offices for his firm and the barracks into two residential units and office space.

Isn’t this a place to which Rhe would be drawn?



17 thoughts on “K = Kennebec Arsenal”

    1. There is so much history everywhere, it makes my head spin. I probably know more about Maine than North Carolina, but part of it is because I grew up in New England.

    1. If I had my druthers, I would go to the mid- coast and sample the scenery, take a day sail, and eat some lobsters in the Boothbay Harbor area or head to Bar Harbor and spend some time at Acadia National Park. Where have you been in Maine?

      1. We’ve been anywhere from the southern coast, (York, Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, etc) up to Bar Harbor and most places in between. Boothbay is one of my favorite places anywhere, especially out to Ocean Point.

  1. Pingback: Capturing History Challenge Week 17 | Ed Mooney Photography

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