Southern Maine Community College expects its $200,000 in repairs to Fort Preble will be wrapped up by the end of November. The fort has been damaged by years of erosion and a storm last December. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Southern Maine Community College will start work next week to repair the 215-year-old Fort Preble on its South Portland campus.

Part of the fort has crumbled to the shore and much of the rest is a safety hazard because it is unstable.

“I think the lion’s share of the damage that is causing the primary safety issues happened over the course of the last couple of decades from erosion,” said SMCC Interim President Tiffanie Bentley. “The (December) storm really sort of pushed it over the edge. That’s when we really started to see a whole lot more incursion from water underneath the fort undermining it.”

Fort Preble is not only a historical landmark but makes up part of a seawall. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

The storm on Dec. 23, 2022, came with wind gusts that caused roughly 255,000 power outages statewide and flooding in some coastal communities.

The $200,000 repair project involves removing some of the fort’s large granite blocks that are unstable and cataloging them “so that in the future, we could conceivably reassemble them,” Bentley said. Drainage will be installed to prevent further damage.

“It’s going to look worse before it looks better,” she said.


The cost is significant for the college, Bentley said, but the consequences of doing nothing are significant, too.

Many of the granite blocks that make up the fort are unstable and currently blocked off to the public. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

“There are a lot of people that are excited that we’re working on it because of the historical value,” she said. “People that aren’t excited are like, ‘why are you spending $200,000 on a project like this when, clearly, you could be spending it on other work throughout the campus?’

“Most people don’t understand that the fort also functions as part of a seawall.”

Five buildings on campus would be jeopardized if the fort were to completely collapse, Bentley said, “because the water would be able to go straight across Spring Point Field” in the case of a flood.

The fort was constructed in 1808 to defend the Portland area as tensions between Great Britain and the United States continued to boil in the years after The Declaration of Independence was signed. It was active during major wars from the War of 1812 all the way through World War II. The fort was deactivated in 1950 and the property was taken over by SMCC in 1952.

Repairs are set to begin on Monday and are predicted to be finished by the end of November.

Comments are not available on this story.