“Battery Steele is not only the largest gun battery built on Peaks Island, but also an example of the largest battery ever built anywhere in the United States.”
from An Island at War by Kim MacIsaac and Joel Eastman
A Short History of Battery Steele
and the Peaks Island Land Preserve
A Brief History
During World War II, Battery Steele was the most important fortification in Casco Bay. It's two 16" guns, triangulated by observation towers on Peaks Island, Jewell Island, Cushing Island, and Bailey Island could shoot a shell weighing 2,240 pounds nearly 30 miles at enemy battleships or submarines to protect Portland Harbor. Threatened by development, the Peaks Island community formed the Peaks Island Land Preserve to purchase the property to conserve as open space. Today this reminder of the past provides sweeping ocean views (the Battery has no water access). The path from Seashore Ave. passes through a marsh and pond area lush with vegetation and teaming with wildlife, or the site can be accessed from the dirt Brackett Ave. where on-street parking may be available. Foot or bike access is recommended.
National Register Listing
On October 20, 2005 Battery Steele was officially listed in the National Register. This designation was the culmination of a several year-long process with many contributors including long time island resident Kim MacIsaac, historian Joel Eastman, Christi Mitchell, Architectural Historian, with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and a handful of other Peaks Islanders.
The historical background of Battery Steele has now been officially recognized as unique and noteworthy. Islanders old enough to have a personal recollection of, or connection to, the Second World War, remember Battery Steele as the most important fortification within the Peaks Island Military Reservation which at one time comprised 198 acres of Peaks Island--more than 25% of the island’s total area.
Many islanders know the Battery as a special place to play or "hang out." Others know it as a place of celebration, most notably perhaps for the “Sacred and Profane” event that has become an island tradition. In fact, Battery Steele has special meaning to almost everyone who knows and loves Peaks Island.
Battery Steele, now part of a 14-acre preserve, is stewarded by the Peaks Island Land Preserve (PILP) the island organization instrumental in successfully sheparding the site’s application for National Registry designation. PILP now stewards approximately 170 acres of Peaks’ lands which is about 1/5 of the island that is preserved and protected in perpetuity.
(Information compiled by Curtis Rindlaub and Steve Schuit)
For more info on Battery Steele, The National Register or The Peaks Island Land Preserve please refer to the following resources:
The National Register
The Maine Historic Preservation Commission
“An Island at War” by Kim MacIsaac and Joel Eastman, 2011.