CAPE ELIZABETH ME
Fort Williams Bandstand
Fort Williams Park
Built - 1937
The promontory of Cape Elizabeth remained unnamed for 75 years after initially being chartered by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain. Not until John Smith arrived was the area named in honor of Princess Elizabeth, the sister of King Charles 1 of England. From that point on, the very beautiful area on the coastline of Maine began to thrive with settlers who established a fishing and trading post. These early citizens of the town, however, encountered many problems with immigrants to the area, the local Native Americans, and occasional pirates in the local waters. For many years the area maintained its status quo until, after 250 years, many of its citizens started commuting to nearby Portland for their livelihood and the town then had only a few farms and little, if any, fishing boats.
The town of Cape Elizabeth is the birthplace of the legendary movie director John Ford and also the home of Joan Benoit Samuelson who was the first winner of the women's Olympic marathan. Fort Williams also houses the most photographed lighthouse in the world - the Portland Head Light along with the town's bandstand.
For Williams is a 14-acre parcel of land in town which once housed a fortification and sub-post called Fort Preble located at Spring Point within Fort Williams, which was built in 1872 and used as a harbor defense post initially. Years later, the fort was renamed Fort Williams and used as a logistical nad administrative support installation for Maine's military and personnel units during the war and was finally closed in 1962 then falling into building shells as they are today.
The fort and area is now known as Fort Williams Park which plays host to many picnics, concerts and other special events by the town which has been enjoyed by countless thousands over the years since opened up to the public.
Fort Williams Bandstand was built in 1965 and is the third one the town has had. It has replaced the original bandstand built in 1909 and is located near the high point of Portland Head Light and is weighted down with four large concrete slabs and protection from the nasty weather and high winds that often comes off the water during the winter months.
As a part of the Fort's original plan, the bands members of years during the early 20th century were housed in their own barracks on the fort with the group's popularity in those days bringing about the construction of a second bandstand in the northeast part of the park in 1911. Concerts by these Coast Artillery Bands were very well-attended events.
In 1937 at the height of the Great Depression, Fort Williams served as an induction center for the Civilian Conservation Corps who were given federal funds and built a third bandstand, a simple, round concrete-walled paltform that still exists in the park.
The present bandstand was used by Governor John H. Reed in 1965 who spoke from the stage and honored Cape Elizabeth on their Bicentennial. Since the bandstand was used quite often during the summer months, and still is on those occasional concerts, it was reconstructed with roof improvements in 1979 at a cost of $25,000.