"K" is for Kittery
By John Hirtle, Beach News Staff
Beach News, Thursday, July 7, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Beach News]
[Beach News Photo by John Hirtle]
Unlike most Seacoast area towns, Kittery is not named after a town in England, but a home. Specifically, the manor of Kittery Court located on Kittery Point located in Kingsweare in Devon, England, across the river Dart from the city of Dartmouth. It was from Kingsweare that some of the first settlers came from.
While settlement of Kittery dates back to the early 1620’s, it wasn’t until 1647 that Kittery was formally recognized as a town, making it the oldest town in the state of Maine.
William Pepperrell was one of the town’s early noteables. Born in 1696, Pepperrell would rise in local politics, eventually becoming a colonel in the American militia. When King George’s war broke out, he was in command of the British land forces that took the French fortress of Louisburg on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. For this, Pepperrell became the first native-born American to be made a Baronet.
One of his local lasting contributions can still be seen in a way. Fort McClary stands atop the land he gave to build fortification to defend the citizens of Kittery from foreign attackers, and to protect ships from duties collected by New Hampshire’s Naval Officer across the river at Fort William and Mary. Today’s present structures at Fort McClary include the 1844 granite blockhouse, said to be the last one built in Maine, and half-built walls from the Civil War period of refortification. Fort McClary is now a state park and is open to the public. With its ample timber and skilled labor, the town of Kittery became known as a shipbuilding center. This, and the swift currents of the Piscataqua River led to the establishment of the country’s oldest shipyard on a set of islands in Kittery in 1800. Since Kittery had no post office at the time, it was named the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Over the years, debate on which state the shipyard is actually in has grown, but there is no denying that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is the finest facility of its type in the country. Today though, the yard is faced with the threat of closure, as the BRAC Committee considers which vital military facilities need to be shut down during a time of war.
While Kittery has seen its share of industries and attractions, the thing it is most well known for is the shopping outlets along Route 1, an rightly claims the title as the "Gateway to Maine". But before you go further into the pine tree state, take a moment to stop by The Kittery Historical and Naval Museum to find out more about the town’s long and colorful past.
The Kittery Historical and Naval Museum is located next to the town’s municipal offices at the junction of U.S. Route #1 and Rogers Road, immediately north of the Kittery Traffic Circle. It is open from June to Columbus Day, Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, or by appointment. Admission fees are $3.00 for adult, $1.50 for children 7-15; children under 7 are free. Other family, senior and group discounts are available. For more information, please call (207) 439-3080.