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Fort Wetherill

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1902 and later, Major General George W. Goethals, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Fort Wetherill Rd.
  • Fort Wetherill (John M. Miller)

Following the destruction of the U.S. battleship Maine in 1898, the federal government acted to increase the fortification of Narragansett Bay, both by the Dutch Island installation to protect the West Channel and Fort Wetherill on the Highland bluffs for the East Channel. For this, four summer cottages were condemned, including Richards's painting sanctuary (see introduction to Ocean Highlands). Fort Wetherill was begun in 1902 and augmented between 1904 and 1907, supervised by Major General George W. Goethals, who was to be in charge of the building of the Panama Canal. Construction from these initial phases remains in essence, despite upgrading during World Wars I and II. When it was deactivated after World War II and in the 1970s, most of the land, with remnant fortifications, went to the state as part of its park system, along with Fort Adams and Dutch Island. Most impressive (though marred by graffiti) are the reinforced concrete bastions, which make a manmade plateau of the bluff's rim, indented behind by a series of deep, stepped circular wells redesigned in 1916 to contain 12-inch disappearing guns with slitted bunkers for observation. Architectural observers will be equally interested in the superb binocular view of Joseph Wharton's Marbella/Horsehead from the bastion. The long shingle house with its turret appears as the cockpit of the jutting headland on which it rides.

From the northeast corner of the Fort Wetherill parking lot a short, dead-end scenic drive provides a series of outlooks over the East Channel. The view of Newport opposite (south to north) takes in Castle Hill, Hammersmith Farm, and Fort Adams. Boats turn past Fort Adams to enter Newport Harbor. Hence the summer months provide as splendid and varied a parade of pleasure craft along this channel as can be seen anywhere. On the very end of the turnaround, at the tip of an intervening point on an abrupt rise of rock, is the site of a long-gone Revolutionary War stronghold known as Fort Dumpling.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Fort Wetherill", [Jamestown, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 597-597.

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