Yet few remain today. According to Tom Kolterjahn, a profusion of powder houses and powder magazines were built between 1800 and the 1820s to keep communities secure. Today powder houses survive in Beverly, Newburyport, and Amesbury, MA; Portsmouth, NH; and Fort McClary, and Hallowell, ME. There are also two older, 18th-century powder houses in Somerville and Marblehead, MA. These structures come in many shapes and sizes.
Last month, a group of us met with Kolterjahn, a resident of Newburyport, who has helped to research and restore the 1822 powder house there. This small circular building on Godfrey’s Hill was built to store gun powder for the local militia. This was Newburyport’s third powder house. One had been located closer to the downtown district, until the town decided that public safety would be better served by a powder house on the town’s outskirts.
Stay tuned for further updates regarding the Cambridgeport powder magazine. Marilyn Wellons and Nina Cohen are currently researching our building, which was erected along the Charles River—also far from settlement—in 1818.
All photographs, except the one of our powder magazine, are courtesy of Kolterjahn. Thank you Tom!