Friday, April 15, 2011

Maine Revolutionary War Fort is Site for PBS ‘History Detectives’ Shoot

A Revolutionary War fort that once protected the approaches to the Piscataqua River in Kittery was the location recently for an investigation and taping by a crew from the popular PBS series, “History Detectives.”
A group of 20 Revolutionary War re-enactors from the Friends of Fort McClary joined the Lion TV crew at Fort McClary State Historic Site in Kittery to tell the story of an unusual wooden telescope discovered by a Kittery Point man and shared with television show. The fort is managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, under the Maine Department of Conservation.
“History Detectives” host Elyse Luray joined the crew to track down the original owner and to find out whether the telescope was used during the American Revolution. During the daylong taping, Luray also interviewed Dr. Steven Eames, professor of history at Mount Ida College, Newton, Mass., about the 1745 Battle of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, which plays a part in the story.
The episode is expected to air during the show’s ninth season sometime this summer, according to Lion TV producers. Because the show involves a mystery and revelation about the artifact, some of it remains confidential, they said.
“Shooting at Fort McClary was such a treat,” Robin Hutchins, Lion TV associate producer, said. “The park staff went above and beyond, and their help made the day run smoothly. Fort McClary is an amazing piece of early American history, and we were lucky enough to get a chance to see it brought to life by the Friends of Fort McClary! I hope we will get an opportunity return soon.”
“Fort McClary was amazing -- it was like a cinematographer’s dream come true,” Shervin Hess, Lion TV producer, said. “Each shot was better than the last. I think this will be one of the prettiest interviews we have shot all season. The park staff was incredibly gracious and made sure the day went smoothly. I hope ‘History Detectives’ will bring us back to Fort McClary one day in the near future.”
“We were happy to host ‘History Detectives’ at Fort McClary, and we hope the many people watching the show will want to visit this and our other historic sites and parks,” Will Harris, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands director, said. “It’s great to be able to showcase one of our premier historic sites on a national television show.”
“We had a good, long Sunday at the fort, with the 20 re-enactors and the ‘History Detectives’ crew,” Park Manager Glenn Dochtermann said. “All in all, it went well, great weather, nice people and all had a great time. Many people visiting the fort were interested in the filming, and everyone was very understanding and just watched a few minutes before going back to their sightseeing.”
“History Detectives” is a popular PBS series in which history investigators examine the history behind potentially extraordinary objects in everyday American homes, cities and small towns. During the process, they also review legends, folklore and personal histories related to the objects. The series is co-produced by Lion Television and Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Fort McClary was used for this episode to represent the Nova Scotia battleground site. The fort, named for New Hampshire native Major Andrew McClary, who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill, has stood at its Kittery location for more than 275 years. It is one of the state’s most important historic forts, as it represents several different periods of military fortification. It was garrisoned during five U.S. wars, but saw little conflict.
The show’s investigation involves a wooden telescope discovered by a Kittery man when he moved into his great-aunt’s house. Antique dealers are unfamiliar with the object, according to the show’s producers, and can’t date the telescope. The Kittery man hopes the telescope belonged to his ancestor who served on the Raleigh, one of America’s first naval war ships during the American Revolution.
The taping of the show is the second one to take place in recent months at a one of Maine’s 17 state historic sites. In February, a crew from SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” taped a segment at Fort Knox State Historic Site in Prospect.
For more information about “History Detectives,” visit and
Photo caption: A Lion TV crew shoots a segment of “History Detectives” recently at Fort McClary State Historic Site, Kittery, as show host Elyse Luray interviews Dr. Steven Eames, professor of history at Mount Ida College, Newton, Mass. (Courtesy photo)