Mount Beacon Fire Tower
US 655, NY 28

Lookout Details

Registry Numbers US 655, NY 28 (view other lookouts in United States, New York)
Date Registered December 16, 2005
Nominated by Bill Starr
Location Dutchess County, New York
Coordinates N 41° 28.893' W 073° 56.665' (view using Google Maps)
N 41° 28' 54" W 073° 56' 40"
N 41.481550° W 073.944420°
Elevation 1,600 ft (488 m)
Built 1931
Administered by NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation
Cooperators City of Beacon; NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Description

The Mount Beacon Fire Tower was built in 1931 on the site of an earlier wooden tower. It was used by NY State Forest Rangers for 50 years before being decommissioned in 1987. The 60’ Aermotor LS-40 tower with 7’x7’ metal cab overlooks the Hudson River Valley, including the skyscrapers of New York City 55 miles to the south. Despite the fact that DEC surplused the tower more than a decade ago, there were no buyers, or takers, so the tower remains a DEC tower on City of Beacon land.

Additional information courtesy of Bill Starr, NHLR State Registrar: "This station appears in the 1922 and 1924 Annual Reports to the Legislature as South Beacon Mtn. which was first established with no tower of any kind. During this time when the Observer spotted a fire he had to walk a quarter mile down the foot trail to a tree where the telephone line ended. He then had to climb that tree to dial out on a temporary type telephone. This facility was upgraded to a steel fire tower in 1931. Awaiting restoration group formation.

6/22/2013 Re-opening Ceremony

The colonials used the 1,400 foot north peak of Mount Beacon during the Revolutionary War to set warning fires to alert General Washington at his headquarters on the western side of the Hudson of any British presence in the valley below. From this activity, the City of Beacon got its name.

The Mount Beacon Fire Tower is however located on South Mount Beacon which is just under one mile due southeast and two hundred fifty feet higher than the peak where those early warning fires were built. Constructed on the site of a former wooden fire tower in 1931, it stood for 79 years without any major renovations. The last assigned fire ranger was in 1972. Thereafter, the tower became open to hikers bold enough to ascend the seventy two stairs to the seven foot by seven foot observation room at the top. One learned quickly on such a trip that new steps were badly needed, as were upgraded railings and new steel for most of the cross members. In 2001, "the DEC Division of Lands and Forest Region 3 staff member, George Profous, followed up on informal requests to save the deteriorating tower and sent reports to ascertain project support... ." In 2003 a formal organizational meeting took place with NYSDEC, the NYS Hudson Valley Greenway, the City of Beacon, the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, and the Mt Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society participating. The Mount Beacon Historic Fire Tower Restoration Committee resulted with John Hupe as its first Committee Chair. A small group of dedicated men and women from the original committee began to seek funding and ways to promote the mission to restore the tower. Their first undertaking was to sell the seventy two replacements steps via a successful public marketing campaign. In 2005 the tower earned special recognition when it was placed on the National Historic Lookout Register. During the next two years much needed funding for the project was gained thanks to former State Senator Steve Saland and the late State Assemblyman Thomas Kirwan.

In the fall of 2007, David Rocco joined the MBFTRC organization and became the Project Manager. He brought his enthusiasm and experience from several other historic preservation projects, not the least of which was his five years as a board member for the acclaimed Walkway Over the Hudson.

After the replacement steps were installed over the summer of 2008, the next phase was to install new staircase landings and the cabin floor. The two hundred pound steel gratings removed from the historic Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, now the Walkway Over the Hudson, were transported up Mt. Beacon, then hand carried across the mountain top to the fire tower by several of the fire tower committee members. Over the course of the next several weekends, all of the landings and the cabin floor were replaced.

Then in 2009 the Mt. Beacon Fire Tower again earned notable historic status with its listing on the State and National Registry for Historic Places. By 2010, engineering inspections were updated and the same dedicated core of committee members worked diligently with the Hudson Valley Four Wheelers Association to get the remaining necessary materials and equipment up to the tower site for the first phase of the cross bracing work. Two years later, Vanna Construction LLC of Saranac Lake, New York, was hired to work alongside all the volunteers to complete the remaining steel cross braces. They also replaced the roof on the cabin. Noteworthy that Dave Vanna, the owner of Vanna LLC, commented that of all the fire tower restoration jobs he had done across the United States, this particular project was the most challenging to reach because of the great difficulty moving vehicles up the mountain and over the large boulders which made the trail to the tower almost impassible for all but the sturdiest and most flexible of four wheel drive vehicles and their skilled drivers. Thanks to the core volunteers, the Hudson Valley Four Wheeler Association, and the New York Army National Guard (1156th Engineering Company and the 204th Engineering Battalion), the cross bracing, cabin walls, raised handrails, and priming and painting of the entire tower were accomplished professionally and passed all inspections. The Beacon Fire Tower was ready for those intrepid hikers adventurous enough to go up to the top to get an even more breathtaking view of the Hudson Highlands, the New York City skyline sixty miles due south and on very clear winter days the New York State Office Towers in Albany ninety miles due north.

94 year old Pete Seeger and 82 year old David Amram were two of the first guests of the Fire Tower Committee on the official opening day, June 22, 2013, to arrive at the summit and to climb the tower. These two gentlemen along with the wonderful Hudson Valley Storyteller, Jonathan Kruk, were the featured artists for the re-opening of the tower. Thanks to the twenty-five volunteer four wheel drive vehicle owners, the sixty guests arrived safely up top from the base of Mount Beacon. With the entire Hudson Valley Highlands as the amphitheater, David Rocco stood on one of the granite outcroppings surrounded by the folks who had contributed so selflessly all those years. With great sincerity he thanked each volunteer and contributor for their efforts. Jon Kruk then told a captivating tale of Beacon folks from the Revolutionary Period who came to believe that one man of some questionable means had actually buried treasure up on this mountain. Since it was never found, we are today left with the amazing treasure of this high and special place open for all of us to enjoy for just the price of the challenging hike. David Amram followed with a Lakota Chant accompanied by Jon Kruk on a drum. It was a very special moment: the grand open sky, the simple true structure of the tower, the presence of over sixty dedicated workers and friends----all shared and contributed in silent tribute to the ancient sounds and feelings David and Jon brought to us that magical afternoon. Pete Seeger then asked us all to join him in song as he spoke the words to "Amazing Grace". One thousand six hundred fifty feet above the Hudson River, we responded.

The ceremony ended with Pete Seeger thanking all for their dedication to this piece of our history, a piece which just happens to be two miles from his humble house much farther down through the forest. Not often in our lives that we can be present at such a people's special site, to be present when the man who has dedicated his life to living in harmony with our planet once again took such joy in having another audience sing out, when this same man uncharacteristically wonders aloud if we would all consider the creation of another trail from Lake Melzingah deep in the forest below? Will we someday soon act to provide such access for others so they may approach and treasure this unique and hallowed ground?

Our Hudson Valley Storyteller Jon Kruk best captures the history and the special meaning this tower and this high ground has for us all--today- when he notes:

"Once upon a time, Yankee Doodles kept the fires ready for something revolutionary, a democratically ruled nation. Then, this tower served as a lookout for the destructive danger of forest fires. Now the Fire Tower on South Mount Beacon serves us in a new way. This tower calls us to appreciate this extraordinary landscape formed by the Hudson weaving through a branch of the Appalachians! This Beacon of Beauty calling us to treasure our majestic mysterious Hudson Highlands."

Map

Change Basemap

Photos

1974 (Bob Eckler photo-courtesy Bill Starr)

1974 (Bob Eckler photo-courtesy Bill Starr)

1974 Cabin (Bob Eckler photo-courtesy Bill Starr)

1974 Cabin (Bob Eckler photo-courtesy Bill Starr)

Aerial view summer 2008 (David Rocco photo)

Aerial view summer 2008 (David Rocco photo)

New York City skyline Oct. 2008 (David Rocco photo)

New York City skyline Oct. 2008 (David Rocco photo)

August 16, 2013 by David Rocco. Beacon-Newburgh Bridge and Catskills Mountains in background.

August 16, 2013 by David Rocco. Beacon-Newburgh Bridge and Catskills Mountains in background.

August 16, 2013 by David Rocco. Newburgh waterfront in background.

August 16, 2013 by David Rocco. Newburgh waterfront in background.

August 16, 2013 by David Rocco.  Storm King Mountain is to the right.

August 16, 2013 by David Rocco. Storm King Mountain is to the right.

Visit Reports

June 12, 2016: Jack Kelley

Condition

Needs paint? No Response
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? Yes
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? No Response
Good condition? Yes
Comments: The restoration seems to have gone very well, with the tower being sturdy in the high winds experienced when I visited. There were no shutter or glass in the windows, but there wasn't supposed to be any so it was fine. The site of the watchman's cabin can still be found off of the main trail, though the cabin has been burned down and asbestos roof shingles litter the area, making exploration dangerous.

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? No
Directions to tower signed? Yes
Comments? The tower is listed on many trail maps.

Staffing

Staffed? No

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? No Response
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? No Response