As well as being a college campus and one the state’s more popular tourist attractions, the fort also serves as Portland Harbor’s breakwater, a 900-ft.-long structure built along the shoreline in 1951 to protect boats, ships and the 126-year-old Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse from the force of waves and currents. (Southern Maine Community College photo)
Work will begin soon to repair damage and instability at a more than 200-year-old military fort in South Portland, now part of the campus of Southern Maine Community College (SMCC), after a destructive storm last winter and years of erosion.
"Our South Portland campus is a gift," SMCC Interim President Tiffanie Bentley told Mainebiz. "As a community, [we take] our stewardship of this treasured landmark very seriously."
Fort Preble, one of the state's historic installations, was built in the early 1800s to defend Portland Harbor during the War of 1812. The citadel was named after Portland native Commodore Edward Preble, a naval hero who served during the Barbary Wars in the Mediterranean Sea.
Over the years, the United States used Fort Preble for a variety of military purposes, including as a training facility for soldiers during World War II.
The fort was deactivated in 1950 and two years later, the state of Maine took ownership and converted the site into a facility for the Maine Vocational Technical Institute, which ultimately became SMCC.
As well as being a college campus and one the state's more popular tourist attractions, the fort also serves as Portland Harbor's breakwater, a 900-ft.-long structure built along the shoreline in 1951 to protect boats, ships and the 126-year-old Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse from the force of waves and currents.
By using large rocks or concrete blocks to build the breakwater, the impact of the waves is absorbed, and their energy is redirected away from the harbor.
Additional breakwater construction began in 1837 after a severe storm destroyed wharves and houses along the Portland-South Portland shoreline.
More recently, though, powerful storms and years of erosion have caused damage and instability at the site.
Following a survey of the area, the college worked with Tec Associates in South Portland to develop plans to stabilize the fort. Great Falls Construction in Gorham was selected to do the heavy work.
The project includes fencing in areas most at risk, adding erosion control measures — including sub-drainage — removing unstable granite blocks, cataloging locations from which the blocks are removed, and storing them safely on the site so they can be reassembled at a future time when funding becomes available.
During the repair effort, contractors will erect a barrier around the site to ensure the safety of their personnel, the SMCC community and visitors.
The stabilization project is expected to be completed by late November.
"We will do everything within our means to keep [the fort] from further degradation so that it remains a source of inspiration and education for students and visitors for years to come," said Bentley.
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