Kevin was the father of my high school girlfriend. A former surfer and Olympic hopeful from California, he came to Maine and owned the Laughing Whale in downtown Bath.

This was a store that manufactured and sold wooden model boat kits. The showroom was a small and wonderful place with models of the tugboat Seguin, the Muscongus Bay Lobster Smack, and other historical vessels. I helped put a few of the kits together, but mostly just hung out.

One day a camping trip was planned. Kevin would drive the camper, and I would follow behind in my Volkswagen. Before we even got going, however, he stumbled out of the camper and fell to the ground, holding his head.

The news was bad. A patch of melanoma from his surfing days had been removed 12 years earlier, but now the cancer had spread to his brain. The doctors gave him six months.

But the tragedy led to one of the more magical days of my life.

Before moving to Bath, Kevin had been the caretaker of Cushing Island in Casco Bay. His family had the entire place to themselves half the year, and his kids took the mail boat to school every day.

During his time there, he discovered the remains of a beautiful little stone and wood gazebo that had been designed by famous architect John Calvin Stevens. It was built in the 1800s as part of a vanished hotel, but nobody was sure exactly where it had been. When the island residents found out about Kevin’s condition, or so I was told, they decided to restore the gazebo in his honor. The family and I were invited to come out to the island and see the result.

That day will always stand out in my memory. I was a teenage history lover who had always dreamed of seeing castles and ruined temples, but I had never been far from Maine. Cushing Island was as far away as I would get for some time.

Although the shore was dotted with cute Maine cottages, the place had once been a military fortification called Fort Levett. There was a single street with old brick buildings along each side. These had once been officer’s quarters, a fire station, a hospital, and other military structures, but now they had been converted into summer homes.

The real fun, however, was the fort itself. It covered half the island, and finding it was like discovering a ruined Mayan city.

Fort Levett was built between 1898 and 1903, and was part of the coastal defenses that protected Casco Bay. It was manned during World Wars I and II, but fell into ruin afterward. I had been to Fort Baldwin at Popham many times, and Levett was built in the same style, with concrete bunkers, empty gun batteries, and towers. However, it was many times the size of Baldwin, covered in jungle-like growth, and completely untouched.

There was no graffiti, and the bathrooms still contained the broken and rusted toilets and sinks that old-time soldiers had used. There were stalactites and stalagmites everywhere. One bunker was a quarter-mile tunnel that you had to walk through with flashlights, and one of the spookiest places I have ever been. There were two concrete towers similar to the one at Baldwin, but both were several times taller. One could be climbed, the other was full of bats. Everywhere you looked there were ruins poking out from the overgrowth. It’s hard to describe the wonder I felt as I explored the haunted place.

On the other side of the fort we came to a beach that was covered in beautiful sea glass. Then we saw the gazebo itself, which had a base of fieldstone piers, a wooden roof, and delicate wooden arches. I was glad to see this piece of the past brought back to life.

Kevin died a few months later. His family moved back to California, never to return. I always dreamed of going back to Cushing Island and exploring the ruins again, but sadly there are no public accommodations on the island, and visiting is by invitation only.

Maybe someday I will get the chance.

Zac McDorr is the founder of the Bath Maine History Center on Facebook.You can reach him at [email protected].

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