Fort Independence on Castle Island has a long history of defense in the Boston Harbor. Today, it has been transformed into a popular destination for tourists and locals alike who want a brief getaway from the hustle of metropolitan Boston. The first edifice constructed on the island was a British fortification built in 1634, which underwent several transformations before the British destroyed it themselves during the American Revolution. The United States military took control of the island and established their own armaments. Congress authorized funding for a new fort that was constructed between 1833 and 1851. This fort stood through the American Civil War and World Wars I and II. Eventually, it was preserved and the space surrounding it was turned into a public park.
Fort Independence is the oldest
fortified site of British origin in the United States. It was first erected in 1643 on Castle Island
and has been transformed eight times since the original construction. The present fort was built between 1833-1851. The five-sided structure is shaped like a
pentagon. It stood alone on the island at a strategic point in the Boston
Harbor until 1928. That year, the
roadway connecting the island to the main hub of Boston was opened to make
travel to Castle Island easier for tourists and locals who needed a day away
from the busy city. The island had been
connected to the mainland around this time when a port facility was built
between the two pieces of land.
The fort was used as a
headquarters for the British military during the colonial era. They abandoned and destroyed their own fort
as they evacuated Boston in 1776. While the British held the fort from its
earlier construction until 1776, it was referred to as “the Castle” or “Castle
William.” After the British abandoned
the Fort, it was quickly taken over by American forces and officially re-named
as Fort Adams. Later, in 1797, the name “Fort Independence” was transferred to
the fort from an existing armament north of Boston (in Hull) leaving that fort
without a name. Construction of the
existing fort (beginning in 1833) was supervised by Colonel Sylvanus Thayer,
one of the nation's leading military engineers of the time. Fort Independence
was in operation throughout World War II.
It never saw much action after the American Revolution. During the Civil War, it was used for
training soldiers. Small arms ammunition
was stored at the fort during World War I and later, during World War II, it
was used primarily as a degaussing station for ships entering Boston Harbor.
After the federal government had
no use for the fort, they turned it over to the Massachusetts Department of
Conservation and Recreation. You can tour the fort by self-guide, with the help
of signs, or by group with the Castle Island Association. Tours of the historic
building are free. The Fort is open to public from Memorial Day to Columbus
Fort Independence offers many
public amenities during the summer months. It has direct access to three miles
of beaches with active lifeguards on duty.
The park provides outdoor courtyards for recreational use. Fort
Independence and Castle Island are both listed in the State and National
Registers of Historic Places.