Navy hopes to lease former ‘Alcatraz of the East’ at Maine shipyard

Posted March 05, 2014, at 11:02 a.m.

KITTERY, Maine — The U.S. Navy will again attempt to lease for redevelopment the former military prison known as the “Alcatraz of the East.”

The original stockade of the now-265,000-square-foot building at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was constructed in 1898 to house prisoners of the Spanish-American War, according to the Navy.

In 1908, the Navy replaced the stockade with the middle portion of the existing structure, according to That section was modeled after Alcatraz federal prison on an island 1.5 miles from San Francisco. The northern wing built in 1942, and the southern wing, built a year later, created the current “castle” look.

The prison closed in 1974.

In the late 1990s, the Navy leased the former prison to New Hampshire developer Joseph Sawtelle, who planned to create premium office space. Sawtelle died in 2000, and plans came to a halt a year later.

A forum will be held in April in Eliot, followed by a formal Request for Proposal process, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

The new tenant would be responsible for ensuring structural stability in the building and cleaning up hazardous waste, including asbestos and lead paint.