Fort Williams Park
On April 13, 1899, President McKinley named the one-time subpost of Fort Preble, Cape Elizabeth's first military fortification, Fort Williams. Named after Brevet Major General Seth Williams, Fort Williams grew to be a tremendous military asset during World War II. Besides protecting the shoreline of Cape Elizabeth, the infantry and artillery units provided the Harbor Defense for Portland. After the war, many of the forts in Casco Bay were closed, including Fort Williams, which traded in its defense of the coast for caretaker status and Army Reserve accommodations. Fort Williams was officially closed and deactivated on June 30, 1963.
Although often a place full of runners, bikers, baseball games, and picnics, Fort Williams has managed to maintain some of its historic past. When the Town of Cape Elizabeth purchased the beautiful 90+/- acre park on December 1, 1964 for $200,000, the old military buildings became Town property as well. Along with the various batteries is Goddard Mansion. Although not in the condition it was when Colonel John Goddard and his family lived in it during the mid to late 1800s, the walls of the great mansion still stand high on the hill overlooking Fort Williams.
Today, Fort Williams is still one of the most treasured sites of Cape Elizabeth. Home to the oldest lighthouse in Maine, Portland Head Light, Fort Williams has become a place of tourism, recreation, and leisure time enjoyment. Welcoming nearly a million visitors a year, it is not surprising to see people on any given day of the year enjoying the playing fields, tennis courts, beach, or simply walking around the park. During the winter months many find Fort Williams an ideal place to cross-country ski, sled, or even ice skate on the pond. Special events such as Family Fun Day, the Labor Day Art Show and the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race happen yearly, but it is the daily peacefulness of Maine's coastline that has made Fort Williams such a special place for so many generations to enjoy.
The park also offers picturesque views of Ram Island Ledge Light and the islands of Casco Bay. The park has numerous picnic sites with cooking grills. A covered picnic area is also available by reservation from May to October. The covered structure can comfortably seat up to 150 people and is equipped with a cooking grill and picnic tables.
Fort Williams Park is open year round from sunrise to sunset. There is no admission fee.
To reserve the picnic shelter or other areas of the park for group gatherings, please call the Facilties and Transportation Department, 207-799-9574.
- Information was gathered from Collections of Cape Elizabeth, Maine compiled, written, and edited by Chris Roerden, and Cape Elizabeth, Past to Present, compiled by the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society.