All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Kennebec Arsenal Sold

The Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta has been sold to an out-of-state developer.
The arsenal was built during a border dispute with Canada and completed in 1831. It was active during the Mexican and Civil wars, but grew silent in later years, and by the time of the Spanish-American War was manned by only a skeleton crew.

After the Army turned the site over to the state in 1905, it was used for a time to house patients from the state mental hospital. For three decades it has been vacant and neglected. [Link]
Construction of the arsenal was authorized by Congress on Mar. 3, 1827. The act required the Secretary of War to "purchase, as soon as can be effected on reasonable terms, a site for an arsenal in the town of Augusta in the State of Maine, and cause to be erected such an arsenal as may be deemed proper for the safe keeping of arms and munitions of the United States for the northern and eastern frontier." The cornerstone was laid on June 14, 1828. The following description is from James W. North's 1870 History of Augusta:
The arsenal is one hundred feet long by thirty wide, and three stories high, with a spacious basement. It is elevated forty-five feet above low water mark, and is 211 feet from the river. In the first story 2640 boxes of national armory muskets may be stored; in the second story 2376; in the third 2112.

The larger magazine will contain 660 barrels of powder, the smaller 254. The other buildings are a storehouse eighty feet by thirty, two stories high; officers' small quarters, barracks, officers' large quarters, stable, blacksmith shop, armorer's shops and wheelwright's shops. [p. 483]
During the Civil War, it was feared that rebel forces might reach Augusta from Canada and destroy the arsenal. On one occasion, a boat filled with men was spotted approaching the wharf. Shots were fired by the sentries, and the intruders fled.

The Arsenal was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 25, 1970, and was named a National Historic Landmark on Feb. 16, 2000.

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