Castle Island Park is comprised of Fort Independence, a five-bastioned fort made of granite constructed between 1834 and 1851. The fort is the main attraction of Castle Island. The park is 22 acres and connects to the mainland by vehicular and pedestrian causeways. The M Street Beach, Pleasure Bay and Carson Beach form a three-mile segment of park land and beach along Dorchester Bay’s South Boston shoreline. Carson Beach offers breathtaking views and public amenities, including a renovated Mother’s Rest, public restrooms, first aid and lifeguard functions and exhibit space. The outdoor courtyards have adequate space for passive recreational activities. Carson Beach also has a long walkway which allows for strolling, biking or running along the water’s edge from Castle Island to Kennedy Library.
Castle Island and Fort Independence are on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Fort Independence is open from Memorial to Columbus Day; hours vary. The Castle Island Association conducts tours during the summer and there is interpretive signage for tours that are self-guided. The main program there, the History of Castle Island, emphasizes the role of the Fort in defending the harbor. Educators and parents can contact the Harbor Region Office at 617.727.5290 for information about school field trips.
A brief history of the attraction includes:
- The battery’s construction at Fort Hill, the southernmost portion of the Boston peninsula in 1632. The construction was designed to be an advance line of defense in the event of attack.
- By 1634 Boston was an established community and sought defense further out in the harbor, on one of the many islands that protected the port. Shipping was the only way citizens received supplies and correspondence from England during this time.
- In 1635, three cannons, one of which was the property of Deputy Governor Bilingham, were carried down on lighters and installed at the Castle. The garrison, comprised of two men each week from each of the six town that were paid from the colony’s treasury, fired at incoming vessels until the ship raised its flag. Thomas Beecher was one of the Castle officers during this time, and had come over as the master of the Talbot.
- The fort received the name Fort Independence in 1797 and is now one of the oldest fortified sites in all of British North America. During the late 18th century, the Fort was Massachusetts’ first state prison.
For more information on Castle Island Park Waterfront, contact the Harbor Region Office at the number listed above. The facility is open year-round.
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