Many blockhouses were constructed in North America, but few have withstood the test of time. The St. Andrews Blockhouse, however, remains standing today.
During the War of 1812, the residents of St. Andrews had little to fear from their Maine neighbors across the St. Croix River. With a local truce declared and trade flourishing between Atlantic Canada and New England, the main threat to security came from privateering rather than invasion. Nevertheless, the British in Halifax invaded northern Maine in 1814, occupying it until 1818.
To defend the area, three gun batteries and three blockhouses, including the St. Andrews Blockhouse, were constructed. Soldiers within the blockhouses, armed with muskets and small cannons, defended the batteries and protected shipping along the river and harbor. The 18-pounder guns could fire as far as Navy Island, successfully deterring privateer attacks on St. Andrews.
In the early 1800s, St. Andrews was a prosperous garrison town with a bustling commercial seaport, making it an attractive target for licensed American privateers. However, during the American Revolution, privateers attacked and plundered every port in the Maritimes except for Halifax.
During the 1860s, the St. Andrews Blockhouse played a brief role in civic defense amidst tensions with the United States, but its military significance soon waned. Throughout the 19th century, it was used for storage and occasionally as a barracks for the militia, containing elements of the oldest blockhouse in New Brunswick.
Located on the Niger Reef on Passamaquoddy Bay, the St. Andrews Blockhouse offered an excellent vantage point for watchful soldiers. It was one of 12 structures used to defend New Brunswick during the war between Britain and the United States.
By the late 1800s, St. Andrews had become a popular summer resort. The West Point Blockhouse, as it was once known, was converted into a residence, and a public tea room opened nearby. The other two blockhouses (East Blockhouse and Joe’s Point Blockhouse) were demolished.
Today, the St. Andrews Blockhouse stands as a prominent symbol of the town and has been a National Historic Site since 1962.
In August 1993, the St. Andrews Blockhouse was seriously damaged by fire. The people of St. Andrews and Parks Canada worked together to restore the blockhouse and ensure its place in the future of the town and the country.
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