Fort Banks – Winthrop MA
by Guest Blogger, Bette Pye Wing
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, Winthrop is where I grew up. I never knew it at the time, but it was a super special place to live. As I moved to new places and visited others, I was able to make a fairly accurate assessment of each and Winthrop always came out the winner.
For instance, how many kids grew up on a peninsula 1.6 miles square, with 7 miles of beaches, a view of the inner harbor and Boston skyline on one side and nothing but ocean and islands in any other direction? For that matter, how many kids grew up in a town with two (2) forts and a third one near by on Deer Island? Yes, that would be as in military forts and not just historical ones, but actively occupied and maintained forts. It wasn’t unusual to see jeeps and Army trucks on the streets near the biggest fort, Fort Banks. It was usual to spend a day at the beach and see the Shore Patrol making their daily rounds. The Army was a definite presence in our town.
Fort Banks started out as a Mortar Battery, originally built in 1892. It was named for the Civil War general and congressman, Nathaniel P. Banks. It originally had four pits with four, twelve inch diameter mortars each. These mortars were capable of sending an 800 pound shell, nine miles out to sea. This installation was meant to guard and protect Boston Harbor as part of the Harbor Defense. Later, anti-aircraft guns were added and Fort Banks became the base for the Army’s 9th Artillery Regiment. In preparation for WWII, by the end of June 1941, there 58 Officers, 18 NCO’s and 892 enlisted men stationed at Fort Banks. As we headed into the Korean War, Nike Anti-Aircraft Rockets were on the site. The fort now served as part of the early warning system for all of New England. There was also a 250 bed hospital, barracks and officers housing. Today, only one pit and two underground bunkers remain of the original installation, which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. In the 40’s and 50’s military personnel had life pretty easy. Fort Banks became know as The Country Club, while Revere Beach Amusement Park and the hot spots in Boston provided plenty of entertainment.
What once was an important defense installation bustling with military personnel and activity, became inactive September 30,1966. It has become a multi-use area, today, with a school, playground, condominiums, apartment buildings and a cemetery.
I have access to the census records of Fort Banks from 1910 – 1940 and will do look-ups. Please use firstname.lastname@example.org to request additional info or look-ups.
The other two forts, Fort Dawes and Fort Heath will be the subjects of future blogs.
personal observations and history
Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo and Bette Pye Wing