Maine has plenty of places that have been left for nature to reclaim, but one of the most visually fun to explore is Battery Steele on Peaks Island.
Battery Steele is a military fort located on the oceanside area of Peaks Island in Casco Bay. The Fort was built in 1942 as part of efforts to support World War II.
The Army first used the site in the early 1900s. During World War I, the Army built a searchlight shelter, a generator building and one bunker as part of the Portland Harbor Defenses. During the World War II era, the Army constructed Battery Craven, Battery Steele, a control bunker, and five observation towers at the site.
The 14 acres on which Battery Steele sits are formerly part of the Peaks Island Military Reservation. Its name comes from Harry Lee Steele, a Coast Artillery officer during World War I.
The Battery was armed with two 16-inch MkIIMI guns and it replaced all previous heavy guns in the Harbor Defenses of Portland. It was built to protect Casco Bay, specifically Portland harbor during a time when tensions ran high.
In 1995, after decades of having been out of service, the Peaks Island Land Preserve, a community land preservation group, purchased the area to preserve it as a public space.
The land surrounding the structures are perfect for (careful) exploration.
On October 20, 2005, Battery Steele was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Making your way from the Casco Bay Ferry through the conservation area towards the Battery might look a bit like this.
The military site is a mix of two worlds. From the outside, the area appears to be completely left to nature. Overgrown trees and branches crowd what appears to be a crumbling facade. However, the real magic of Battery Steele lies underground.
The bulk of the fort is made up of an underground area. These tunnels have been overtaken by artists and the mark of local Maine residents and friends covers the walls.
The tunnels that lead to the main area of the fort are completely dark. No light enters at all.
Unsurprisingly, Battery Steele has been the backdrop for the annual "Sacred and Profane" festival, which takes place on Peaks Island during the Harvest Moon. Each year's performances are different and it all unfolds quite magically and unexpectedly.
Depending on when you visit, you may be the only person exploring the site. This photo was taken during the "Sacred and Profane" festival, and shows how popular the secret event can be.
And, as with any abandoned area, please take great care in exploring. The area may include rock and brush which can cause falls and scratches.
Check out this video for more views of both Battery Steele and the “Sacred and Profane” festival.
Fun fact: Battery Steele’s amazing tunnels are said to feature perfect acoustics if you sing or play a musical instrument inside.
Have you explored Battery Steele? What do you think of its current state? Let us know over on our