Visited 26 Jun 2009 – Battery Guenther was the second and last battery I visited after arranging for clearance to visit the two Fort Canby batteries that were on Coast Guard property. Clearance was relatively easy to get and the Coast Guard does not mind civilians visiting the old batteries so long as you call ahead and ask them. Battery Guenther is located near the coast guard personnel housing outside the entry gate. So accessibility was relatively easy. You can even see part of the front of the battery driving down the road to the station. Even though there is no direct obstacles to see the battery, you have to get permission to see the battery given that it is on coast guard property.
Battery Guenther is a Taft Period concrete mortar battery that was part of the Columbia River Harbor Defense Project. It is on the Washington side of the Columbia River located at Fort Canby. The battery was built to address the crowding issues of the mortar pits at Battery Clark, located across the Columbia river at Fort Stevens. A crew of thirty was required to man a pair of mortars and Battery Clark, like all Endicott Period mortar batteries was built with 4 mortars per pit. So for Battery Clark that’s sixty men in a pit that has limited space.
In 1917 it was decided that the best way to relieve the crowding issue and still provide adequate coverage of the Columbia River mouth was to build another mortar battery with four mortar emplacements, two emplacements per pit, on the other side of the river and transport four M1890MI mortars and their M1896MI carriages from Battery Clark over to the battery. It is interesting to note that the battery took 3 years and eleven months to build, making it the longest seacoast battery construction project of both the Endicott and Taft eras. The battery also has the distinction of being the last seacoast mortar battery built in the United States. The battery was deactivated in 1942 and the mortars and carriages were salvaged the next year.
Unlike my visit to Battery O’Flyng, My Coast Guard escort said it really wasn’t necessary for me to have an escort for Guenther and it was ok to explore the battery on my own. So we parted ways and I headed out to the battery. I went out the entrance gate and from there it is a short walk on a road by some Coast Guard housing to the battery.
When my escort said that some changes were made to Battery Guenther it was an understatement. The battery was used as a haunted house and while old batteries would make great haunted houses, someone like me who explores these batteries for the historical military value, and for taking pictures, it just breaks the heart to see what was done. The passage way between the two mortar pits was stacked up with old plywood, tables, and other junk, including a mattress. Doorways to the interior of the battery were fitted with wooden door frames and had doors installed, all were locked expect for the plotting room. The shell rooms, ante rooms, and magazine rooms had Halloween stuff in it and the walls were painted black. Despite all the modifications it is reversible with removal of the modifications and a good clean up.
Battery Guenther is not without some interesting features. The most impressive feature were the shell room doors. These doors I would estimate to be about 12 feet tall and were pretty massive, not to mention impressive. The other interesting feature I found was the remains of what seems to be two mortar shell hoists in the mortar pit A shell room right behind both sides of the steel doors. Originally there were four hoists, one on each side of the shell rooms. The shell hoists in the pit B shell room are gone.
Despite my disappointment in the modifications, junk, and rooms being used for storage, and lack of accessability for most of the rooms, it was still worth the visit. I would like to thank the personnel at Cape Disappointment Coast Guard Station and a personal thanks to Petty Officer Barnes, my escort. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to visit Battery Guenther. It was such a treat to visit a battery that is not visited often.
This post was written by John Stanton on August 1, 2009