KITTERY — The turreted fortress that once served as a Navy prison has fallen into disrepair after four decades of disuse, and it appears that nothing is going to change anytime soon.

The Navy abandoned its third attempt to enlist the private sector to redevelop the shuttered prison.

For now, the Navy has no plans for its future use, meaning it’ll continue to languish in the elements that have taken a toll since the prison’s closing in 1974.

The news is disheartening to some, but not surprising.

“There is a huge amount of rehab that needs to be done before the facility could be used. In the meantime, entropy continues to take its toll on this iconic building,” said Peter Bowman, a retired former shipyard commandeering officer who lives in Greenland, New Hampshire.

The 265,000-squarefoot structure overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard represents a quandary for the Navy because it’s both too expensive to repair and too costly to tear down.

In the more than 60 years the prison – known as the Navy Brig – was operational, about 80,000 inmates served their time there. These days, it’s slowly but surely crumbling.

Inside, floors are buckled, pipes are broken and electrical fixtures dangle. Outside, shrubbery is overgrown and windows are boarded up. Paint is peeling, and there’s asbestos.

The Navy had turned to the private sector in hopes of finding a developer willing to address the problems in exchange for prime waterfront real estate. But nothing in the last two decades has come to fruition.

The first redevelopment attempt in the late 1990s proposed creating premium office space. But that plan ended with the death of New Hampshire developer Joseph Sawtelle in 2000.

Another redevelopment attempt by the Navy was abandoned in 2009.


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