Fort Wetherill – Jamestown, Rhode Island - Atlas Obscura

Fort Wetherill

Abandoned Coast Artillery fort now serves as a graffiti canvas and sightseeing vantage point. 


Overlooking the entrance to Narragansett Bay, Fort Wetherill was the perfect vantage point during the Revolutionary War. Formerly called Dumpling Rock, the fort was eventually named after Captain Alexander Macomb Wetherill, a Jamestown native who was killed in action during the Battle of San Juan Hill. Construction on the concrete bunkers started in 1898 and was completed by 1905.

After the threat of WWII had passed, the U.S. military ceased operations here. Once a heavily armed and one of the best lines of defense for the coast of New England, the site remained abandoned for a quarter of a century.

In 1972, the State of Rhode Island acquired the fort and reconfigured the site to support public use as a state park. Recreational uses include hiking trails along the coast, viewing of special events like firework displays and boat shows, and is a popular site for scuba diving.

One of the less mainstream adventures the area offers is exploring the ruins of the abandoned fort. A shell of its former glory overgrown with vegetation and covered in graffiti, the tunnels, and concrete walls remain, with holes in the structures and the ground where cannons and 12-inch guns used to line extensive batteries. Remains of tram tracks trail off into the brush, reminiscent of a submarine mining operation during the world wars, and gun emplacements sit empty except for their colorful new artwork by local taggers.

While many of the areas are fenced off, it seems to be mostly for show, as paths lead to holes in the fence that rarely see repair. The park is popular and crowded in the summer due to all of the water-related events, but in the off-season, one can indulge in exploration practically undisturbed. The interior of the Fort is currently off-limits to the public. 

Know Before You Go

Take Interstate Rte. 95 South, to Rte. 4 South, to Rte.1 South, to Rte. 138 East, to Canonicus Avenue, to Walcott Avenue, to Fort Wetherill Road.

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