News

A Tale of Two Towers

Holyoke's Scott Tower tells a timely story.

Comments (33)
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Photos by Mark Roessler; Historic images courtesy the Holyoke Public Library History Room
Holyoke's Scott Tower stands at the top of Anniversary Hill, Holyoke's largest and least-known park.

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Holyoke's largest and most impressive park has all but disappeared.

It's still there, but you need to know where to look for it. If you've spent any significant part of your life in the Valley, chances are you've driven through the park dozens—if not thousands—of times: Interstate 91 bisects a corner of it. Still, that doesn't make it any easier to know it's there, much less find a way in.

The park's entrance is unmarked, and the small road, located near an entry ramp for the highway, is easy to miss. At the end of a wooded drive lined with empty picnic tables, the road opens into a parking lot and a field. There are vestiges of a public pool that was once here. All traces of an elaborate wooden playground that stood here only a year or so ago have been erased in favor of the grassy space known as Community Field—a mere fraction of the park that's gone missing. The rest of the phantom park is beyond the four lanes of traffic humming along the hill above the field.

At one corner of the parking lot, barred by a thick steel beam, a small access road runs under the highway. Again, there's no sign or notice indicating why anyone might want to venture up the road, past the chain-link fences, garbage and graffiti. There is nothing to indicate that there's a public park just beyond the highway, with a network of paths and roadways leading up to a hilltop crowned by a 54-foot stone tower with a spectacular vista: Scott Tower.

More apparent than the tower made of rocks from a local stream bed, a spire of white metal stands close to the highway, pointing at the sky. The AT&T cell phone tower was installed only a few years ago, with the promise that the funds Holyoke earned from leasing the space to the communications corporation would go to returning the park from obscurity.

But despite hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue generated by the second tower on the site, a promising future for Scott Tower continues to fade.

Shortly after my brother-in-law moved into an apartment in Holyoke, he took me on a drive around his new neighborhood, and that's when we first spotted the tower, poking through the trees in the distance.

I've got a thing for Victorian architecture (some may call it an obsession), and for a long while I've been nurturing a healthy fixation on houses with second- or third-story porches. Hidden beneath the eaves or perched magnificently above a front entrance, these aeries seemed designed to satisfy a primordial urge to stand aloft, with a breeze in the face and a commanding view. Though I've not stood on one myself, I think I understand why such perches were desirable to 19th-century homeowners and why architects once figured them into their designs.

Tooling around Holyoke, my brother-in-law pointed out some of the most majestic upper-story porches I'd ever seen, and it was only by looking up and shielding our eyes from the sun that we spotted the conical roof of Scott Tower in the distance.

*

At home, I launched Google Earth. The free multimedia software presents a globe of the earth, covered in recent satellite photography and offering a nearly comprehensive view of the planet. The cloud of satellites that swarm just beyond our atmosphere, their lenses pointed downwards, have been providing images for governments and businesses that need them for years. Google Earth makes that imagery available (much of it paid for by your tax dollars) in a way that's easy and exciting to use. Even more comprehensive than a Victorian porch, this software lets you see into all your neighbors' back yards, and when you grow tired of visiting spaces you know and seeing them from miles above the Earth's surface, there's the rest of the world to explore.

I was able to see that, on the hill above the Lynch Middle School, there was a tall object that cast a long shadow. Whatever it was seemed to correspond to what I'd seen from the car. A few roads wound up through the woods to the object, but there was no information in the software or on any of the road maps I looked at about what the forest was named or what the object was. The software did show clearly, however, that the access road beneath the highway was the main entrance to the area.

One fall day a few years ago, my wife and I took our infant son to the Community Field park, played on the jungle gym for a while, and then took him in his stroller underneath the highway and into the mystery park.

*

According to Holyoke city documents, in 1923, "The outstanding feature of the year's attainment for Holyoke's public parks was the purchase of Craft's Hill, north of the city, to make a central park for Holyoke, together with the gift of the large tract of land on top of the hill by Colonel Walter Scott. &That means that the crest of the splendid hill north of the city all the way from the Easthampton Road to Cherry Street is saved for the use of the people for all the future." The documents continue, "The matter of securing Craft's Hill for a city park has been under discussion for twenty years. Its purchase was completed as a memorial of Holyoke's fiftieth year of municipal life. Hence the name of the park—Anniversary Hill Park."

Incorporated in 1850, Holyoke officially became a city in 1873. The new Anniversary Hill Park was dedicated with an enormous pageant depicting Holyoke history involving an estimated 3,500 people. An audience of 100,000 watched. Though the land was preserved, not much landscaping was done, but by all accounts the 135-acre park was a success, filled by picnickers in the summer and sledders in the winter. Its popularity was so great that 15 years later, during the Great Depression, it was given a tremendous facelift.

As a part of the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) effort to fight unemployment while upgrading the nation's public spaces and infrastructure, a $336,000 project was initiated to transform the hill into a world-class "municipal park and recreation area which will be unexcelled in Western Massachusetts," the Holyoke Daily Transcript and Telegram promised in January 1940. "With paths especially constructed for baby carriages, the architects dream of mothers and nursemaids wheeling their charges thru shaded glens. It will be complete, even to the babbling brook, benches and pine groves." For three years, a crew of a hundred local workers built roads, paths, bridges and the tower at the top of the hill. The newspapers of the time freely compared the future park with New York's Central Park, even suggesting that it would surpass it in quality.

Later, in 1940, the Park and Recreation Commission voted to change the name of Anniversary Hill to Scott Field, and they also named the tower the Walter Scott Memorial Tower. Though it took two more years to complete, the tower was already attracting thousands of local and out-of-state visitors. The report from the commission stated that a planned observation deck and ski slope had been abandoned due to the lack of manpower, but should it be revisited, there was a balance of over $200,000 left to complete it. In the meantime, 32 fireplaces and 22 picnic tables had been built, and the parks department had furnished firewood for the day-trippers.

In 1981, 40 years later, in the newspaper The Oracle, Holyoke resident David Mayer remembered working on the WPA crew up at Scott Tower. At the time, he was 18. "My father was called to go to work on the WPA but he was incapacitated," Scott told the paper. "I had been working cleaning up after the hurricane of '38, so I went in his place. I felt proud I could help my family during hard times and it was honest work." He described the engineer in charge, Paul Merkel, as "a short, mustachioed man with highcut boots all the way to his knees, a black leather jacket and battered soft hat. He told us he learned his profession in Germany. This man knew his business, as one can tell by looking at the construction of the tower, even today."

He described the work experience: "A normal day was mostly chopping down trees, clearing paths of snow and lumber and sometimes assisting the stonemasons who built the small stone bridge that still stands. When lunchtime came it was common for some of us to consume five sandwiches per man. Especially the young bulls, as they called us. After working outdoor in this type of weather for eight hours you developed a ravenous appetite."

He remembered coworkers such as the foreman, Joseph Williston, and timekeeper, Morey Borlen, and he made friends such as Chester Hoskey ("a Polish boy& [who] was built like a hydrant and just as sturdy") and Frank Sullivan ("who later went on to fight professionally under the name of Frankie Allen"). In addition to the German engineer and the Polish boy, there were French, Irish, Italians and Swedes working on the crew. "These men worked shoulder to shoulder helping one another," he said. "The wages were small but the bond of friendship was priceless. This was as it should be now."

When the tower was completed, a paper of the time described it as "a super look-out from which those of us who love our Holyoke can gaze with pride upon our city and understand the great beauty of her setting. The whole world is rimmed about with mountains, and here and there patches of the great river upon which we live gleam thru the trees, and around bends and curves of its own making."

*

My first visit to Scott Tower with my wife and boy left an impression.

Though the highway hummed nearby, we couldn't see it, and after a while the sound faded into the background. We followed the empty road strewn with fallen leaves and marveled at the towering trees and peaceful solitude—an oasis of forest less than a quarter mile from an urban center. We didn't see anyone, and we had no real idea where we were walking, or that the path we were on was, in fact, designed for the baby stroller we were pushing.

The road went on and on, climbing the hill, and then the aforementioned bridge appeared in the ravine that the road followed. The brook it spanned was dry, and the masonry had been battered and spray-painted, but it had undeniable charm. It was the first indication we had that the place might have been intended for people's pleasure. Later we found a glen full of dilapidated picnic tables, confirming our suspicions.

Confounding them, though, was the cell phone tower down the slope from the tables. Unlike the meandering paths or shady picnic glens, the cell phone tower seemed crudely thrust into the forest without any thought for those who might see it. Tall chain-linked fences lined by barbed wire warded off visitors and kept us walking. Eventually we stumbled on the park's namesake tower itself. The tall, phallic structure appeared as we turned a bend, framed by the saplings that had grown around it.

Though certainly tall, the tower doesn't overwhelm the area surrounding it. It is raised on a walled dais, and its entrance is surrounded by pillars made from river stones. The pillars support a wide balcony 10 feet above the ground, and the 68 steps in the tower itself corkscrew around until they reach the small lookout post with a sweeping, 360-degree view of the lower Valley, from Mt. Tom all the way to Hartford.

Because of the baby in the stroller, my wife and I had to take turns climbing the tower, and for the same reason, we had to head back to the car sooner than either of us would have liked. Ever since, I've been planning my return for a chance to enjoy this park and its hidden vantage point at my leisure.

*

On December 11, 1941, not long after work on the park had been completed, Holyoke's volunteer air raid observation post was moved from the gatehouse of the Ashley Reservoir to the top of Scott Tower. At 450 feet above sea level, its excellent view of the surrounding countryside made it a perfect lookout for potential air attacks, and city officials collaborated with the army and American Legion on establishing a camp at the tower. Three telephone poles brought electricity and a telephone to the small outpost built at the tower's base.

After World War II and through the 1950s, the park thrived. With the Mt. Tom reservation and the Mountain Park amusement park nearby, the people of Holyoke had a wide variety of outdoor recreation options minutes away. The beginning of the end for this plethora of public pastimes came in the early 1960s.

A newspaper clipping from May 15, 1962 reported that the city's Park and Recreation Commissioners went on record "opposing state highway department plans for elimination of a bridge at Community Field for proposed Interstate 91."

The bridge had originally been planned as a way of preserving access to the park and tower, but as the road system began to be built, the bridge was eventually deemed too expensive. The revised plan was for an access road, but the commissioners feared (correctly, it seems) that it would not be built until after the interstate, and access to the tower would be cut off. In the end, of course, the State DPW and the Federal Bureau of Public Roads had their way, and soon after the highway was built, the park and tower fell into decline.

In the early 1970s, President Nixon initiated an effort to preserve existing urban parks and build new ones. The $200 million program, known as The Legacy of Parks, provided municipalities with matching grants for park projects, and Holyoke applied. By 1976, scaffolding had been raised around the tower, repairs had been made, and the graffiti was painstakingly removed. But the preservation efforts didn't stick.

Throughout the 1980s, rather than welcoming families to recreate, the lonely road heading under the highway and up into the woods attracted people who had garbage they wanted to dump free of charge (and illegally) and car thieves.

Stolen cars were driven up into the forest and stripped for parts. When a local citizens' group began cleanup efforts in late 1993, after hauling 75 tires, assorted fenders, and an engine block from the woods, one member said, "I think we could have built a car." Old refrigerators, stoves and washing machines also went into the two dumpsters brought to the site.

In 1994, a story in the Springfield Union News declared the park restored to its former glory, but in March, 2000 the same paper reported another dumping incident in the park. This time, though, there was no mystery about who the perpetrators were. A Board of Health citation accused then-Holyoke Parks director Phillip A. Chesky of running an illegal solid waste dump in the park. A large pile of tree trunks was deposited near the tower, elsewhere there was a pile of broken park benches, and in another pile were an air conditioner, couches and other furniture. After an argument with Mayor Sullivan, Chesky and his staff made several trips to the site and removed the piles, but the reporter noted a lot of debris still remaining at the site. (Chesky is no longer parks director.)

The interest in the tower and the park continued in 2000, and a new group was formed to investigate improving the park and saving it. In September, shortly before she was voted out of office, State Rep. Evelyn Chesky (the parks director's mother) approved $200,000 in state matching funds for saving the park, and later in the year, AT&T proposed building a cell phone tower on the site.

*

I returned to Scott Tower in October to take pictures for this story, bringing my brother-in-law along for the ride. As I set up my tripod at the unmarked gate in Community Field, out of the woods beyond the highway a teenager appeared, a pair of huge bramble-snipping clippers over his shoulder. As I took pictures, the red-head teen eyed us suspiciously, and slowly edged closer.

"What you doing?" he asked.

"Taking pictures for a newspaper story," I explained. "I'm writing about Scott Tower."

"This isn't the tower," he said, as if catching me in a lie. "You're a long way from the tower. It's at the top of the hill."

My brother-in-law interjected. Pointing to the clippers, he asked, "You clearing the trail?"

"Yup," he said.

"Got a dirt bike?"

"No, an ATV," he said, and headed back into the woods.

A bit later, as I set up my camera to take a picture of the bridge spanning the dry brook, the teen roared up beside us. Shutting off the engine, he proclaimed, "I've lived here all my life. I know everything there is to know about this place. Name's Robert Gubala."

Robert, who was 17, proceeded to tell us about the wild parties he'd witnessed up at the tower, and how, even when the gate to the tower stairs had been locked, partiers would simply drive their trucks up to the base of the tower, build a ladder and climb up to the balcony. Throwing things off the tower seemed to be a favorite activity of the revelers, and our new guide said he'd seen kegs, televisions and hundreds of beer bottles hurled from the top of the tower. He was none too impressed with this behavior, as he was really tired of cleaning up all the broken glass. He wasn't sure he was going to do it anymore.

I asked him if he ever thought the park would be fixed up and restored to its former glory. The notion surprised him, but he was quick to reply, "No way. It would cost way too much. I drive around this place all year, and I hardly see anyone up here. No one cares. Why would they spend the money?"

As my brother-in-law and I traveled further up the hill, Robert buzzed, unseen, through the forest around us, occasionally checking in on our progress and seeing whether we had any questions. As the morning wore on, we began to hear other vehicles tearing through the park, and eventually we saw three boys on dirt bikes. They eyed us warily but didn't come closer.

After hanging out at the tower's peak for a good long while, we asked Robert if we'd seen everything the park had to offer, and he said there was another bridge off the main road that he liked. We followed him to it, and as I took pictures of the handsome span, he explained that when he was a boy, the brook these bridges crossed could be quite a torrent, and he liked to play in it. Since the housing development on Scott Hollow Drive was built, though, the brook didn't run any more, he said.

Through the brambles we heard the motorbikes tearing around, and we asked Robert if he ever hung out with them. "No," he said firmly, and he assured us they wouldn't find us there by the bridge. The other teens kept to the main road, and they didn't appreciate the park like he did.

On our way out, Robert showed us more stonework and remnants of the old park, and as we headed back to our car, he asked if he'd been of service to us, and whether he'd be in the story. I assured him he would. He zipped off with a wave, and in his wake, the three other motorcycles appeared in the path and watched us until we were out of sight.

*

The committee that had been formed in 2000 to determine the future of Scott Tower initially rejected AT&T's offer to build a cell phone tower on the site. Even though the communications company was offering an annual lease fee of $30,000 plus half the rental fee they'd charge other phone carriers, the committee feared the second tower would dwarf and detract from the first one. They recommended Mayor Sullivan turn AT&T down.

He did not.

The second tower was built, and now, heading north on Interstate 91, it's a private tower that's visible sticking up from the forest canopy, just as you pass the veterans' home. When the second tower was built, the Scott Tower/Community Field Revolving Fund was established so that the proceeds from AT&T's fees would go toward maintaining the two public spaces. In 2005, $86,000 was allocated for use in the following year, and in 2006, $130,000 was allocated.

Except for the new gate preventing cars from accessing the Scott Tower park and the removal of the playground in Community Field, it's unclear how or whether this nearly quarter million dollars has been spent. (Terry Sheppard, Holyoke's current director of Parks and Recreation, said there are no current plans for Scott Tower, but some of the AT&T funds have recently gone toward hiring architects, Gale Associates, to re-think Community Field.) Though there isn't as much trash as there might once have been in the park, it's hard to go far without seeing garbage. Except for what Robert's done, neglect seems to have taken a firm hold. Even the compound around the cell phone tower has long since been destroyed by vandals, and access to the high-tech components is free and easy.

While misallocated finances may be part of the challenge facing the resurrection of the park, a deeper, attitudinal shift seems to be the chief stumbling block to returning the park to public use. As Scott Tower fell into decay during America's wealthiest era, a deep erosion of what we believe is possible and what should be done for the public good also occurred.

Not long after the cell phone tower was erected, terrorists attacked and destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, and in response, without statutory authorization or court approval, President Bush authorized a wide range of surveillance measures aimed at the American public. One such measure was requesting communication companies to permit the government to monitor private cell phone conversations. Many companies complied with this request, including AT&T. This illegal abuse was uncovered in 2005 by the New York Times, but it continues today.

The first tower on the hill was built during one of the most difficult financial crises the country has ever faced, the Great Depression, with no other interest than bringing people together and serving the public good. The paths and bridges were built to offer sanctuary from the rigors of daily life. The sweeping vistas the tower provided were intended to unite. The new cell phone tower, though, was built with private interests in mind, and its corporate owners were clearly more concerned with their business objectives than the interests of those they served. The second tower, rather than uniting the public, spies on them.

Preventing Scott Tower's final fade into obscurity will, like the rest of our damaged country, require more than piles of cash. More importantly, we will need to rediscover the value in community and in undertaking ambitious projects for the common good.

An online panoramic tour of Scott Tower is available here.

Comments (33)
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I just visited the park last weekend. It was my second time visiting the park. The first time I went there I had no idea why it was there or what signifigance it played in Holyoke and western mass's heritage. I had been taken there by a friend who knew a neighborhood you could park in and walk there quite quickly. None the less, last Saturday I had a sudden urge to visit the tower again but had no idea where it was! So I called my friend and got some info and then went online to research. Since then I have been researching the WPA and a few blogs about Scott's Tower and the park. The park itself is still outstanding in my eyes. The original architects and engineers, as well as the laborers did a great job constructing the park. The fact that it still stands is a huge reminder of what can be done with a little hard work. I hope there is something we can do to get the property lease money AT&T pays the city into the hands of a planning commitee solely for the purpose of reconstructing this great park. It really is such a jewel and has given me a new appreciation for the area. I'm a 25 year old kid who hopes this country and this Common Wealth do something about the current state in which our communitys and our country are in. A bad one! I really enjoyed the article. It's funny how this is such a timely article for me to see considering my current visit and my new found interest. Do you plan on doing a follow up in the future? Thanks for the article Mark. Hit me back.
Posted by Steven P. Wilkes on 11.4.08 at 19:39
I was disappointed to find that in the Tale of Two Towers article, the links for "Media Photo Gallery >>" and the first photo were both links to the first photo. I couldn't figure out any other way to access the other 7 photos. It was especially frustrated because seeing those photos is the reason I accessed your site. Hope you'll fix that soon. Also, please keep my email address off your list and please don't give it to anyone else.
Posted by Trevor on 11.5.08 at 13:00
I had no problem viewing the pictures. But i did want to save them on my computer and was only able to save the panoramic view. The rest of the pictures would only save as targets
Posted by Baystate Blazin on 11.5.08 at 13:11
Can't wait to see the virtual reality tour of the tower.
Posted by Steven P. Wilkes on 11.5.08 at 20:01
We are a young couple who are always out exploring new places. We have scoped mount tom from top to bottom and all around. but this tower and park we have never come across. We are greatly interested in the park and even would give efforts to clean up and try to open what could be a beautiful park. problem is...even from your article we cannot seem to grasp even how to begin to get there. IF you could e-mail me or post something here that would help us find this place we would check it out, It seems beautiful and historic and should be preserved. PLEASE HELP!!! thank you nicole and chris.
Posted by Nicole and Chris on 11.5.08 at 20:02
Thanks for writing about one of my favorite places. I'm from Holyoke and have been visiting Scott Tower and Community Field since I was 17 which was a long time ago. I still go there for lunch sometimes. I always thought is was such a shame how people destroyed such a wonderful spot. I would see items dumped there and wonder how anyone could do that to such a nice place. There are too few places like this in our area. I remember when it was pristine and what a great view it is from the "Tower". Your article was most informative about the history of the park and how it was built. The photos were great as well. Let's hope that it will generate some interest in restoring it back to the beautiful park it was intended to be.
Posted by Donna F. on 11.6.08 at 8:39
today we took a walk through cummunity field and anniversary hill. We found Scott's tower. It was amazing. We found this rock which was covered in brush and trees so we crawled our way through to realize that it was a dedication rock to the tower. So us being us, and wanting to do something productive removed most of the brush around the rock so other people could see it. and read a little piece of history. Steven Wilkes...if u do read this we would like to get in contact with you about somehow forming a committee and getting this historical, beautiful park back to life. we would have to get some volunteers and some tools but I believe we could do it!!! Mark: If u have anyway of pointing us in the right direction on how to get this started...how to get the funding into a committee's hands and try to bring this park back to life. Its space that is being wasted when it could be restored and preserved as a historical landmark. A place for people to go to enjoy themselves, have picnics, look at the amazing view... from basically the middle of nowhere!!!! thanks for the article once again.....it got us into a whole world of possibilities. We have the energy to do endless things with this place.
Posted by nicole and chris on 11.6.08 at 18:13
Nicole And Chris: I would LOVE to be a part of the effort. I work in Holyoke and live in the most northern point of West Springfield so I'm always in a 20 minute proximity of the park and would love to bring it back to life. Please contact me if you read this. My E-MAIL is..... djbaystateblazin@yahoo.com Mark Roesler: I'm glad to see your article is gettin some love. You did do a really good job. KUDOS! Can you e-mail the folks who proposed we start a group to do something. Nicole and Chris did not leave an e-mail or contact so........I'm not sure if this is possible. Thanx. Keep up the good work.
Posted by Steven P Wilkes on 11.7.08 at 14:25
loved your piece, took me back to my childhood. but you forgot one thing. the pool. my friends and i would spend whole days at that huge pool then take a break and walk to the top of the tower have lunch then go swimming again. some of the best times of my youth were spent at that park.
Posted by B Hall on 11.7.08 at 19:48
I grew up just down the hill from Community Field. In the sixties that park was the hub of our childhood. The sledding hills were not overgrown, providing great tobagganing. We gathered clay from the streambed in the lower area. We used the wading pool, then graduated to Chmura pool near the tower. We caught tadpoles in the spring and built forts in the woods. We often wondered who built the bridges in the woods. we steered clear of the tower then, as it always smelled of urine and we were wary of the copperheads which were said to live in there.
Posted by jb on 11.8.08 at 12:47
if anyone wants to go by and look at what we did today feel free!! Me chris and My sister went up to the tower with a rake and some bags...we got most of the brush off but we will need many more people to help . my contact info is ... ngarrison26@comcast.net if anyone wants to join to help us clean it up feel free to e-mail me. Today while we were there so many people just offered to help. one mom had her husband and two kids each pick up 10 peices of trash and put it in the bags we had...that little bit helped ALOT. we need more people to help us!!! mark, if ya have time go and check it out!!! starting to look better already!!
Posted by nicole n chris on 11.9.08 at 15:22
It reminded me very much of the tower on top of Mt Battie in Camden Maine. Given that Scott tower was a WPA project, I would suspect the Battie Tower might be as well. This leads me to wonder if there are many similar structures on prominent local look outs around New England or indeed, around the country. Great article Mark!
Posted by Ea on 11.10.08 at 7:40
Thanks Mark for a great article. I live in another state now but grew up in Holyoke. My grandmother lived on Columbus Ave. and we would walk from her house up the hill to go on the swings in the park. In the sixth grade my class walked through the woods from Sullivan School to the park for a class picnic. I also remember wading in the pool as a child on those hot hot summer days. For those of you willing to join together to improve the park, GO FOR IT. It takes people like you to get together to break through all the political garbage to get things done. Your children will appreciate it!!!!
Posted by Julie G on 11.10.08 at 12:09
Nicole and Chris, We met you at the park and promised to help. Keep in touch if you are still interested. I love what you've done with the place. gail
Posted by Gail Paddock on 11.10.08 at 16:49
Loved your article, I haven't been there in years. Is there anything remaining of Chmura Pool? I remember going to the tower though the woods somewhere off East Mountain Road. Thank you for bringing back the memories. I will have to take a hike up there soon. If there is a clean up, I would be interested.
Posted by Kathy on 11.10.08 at 17:26
Gail, We are interested in any help we can get!! It is starting to get cold but we are trying to do as much as possible before winter!!! E-mail me with a way to contact you and we will let you know when we will be doing some clean up.!! thank you so much!!!
Posted by nicole n chris on 11.10.08 at 17:29
As kids, (circa 1960-64) my friends and I would bike hike there. My wife and I went there last Friday (8/15/08). I dragged her there due to my unrelenting curiosity. Id seen VanDogs pics on the net and knew the Tower was still there. Community Field was closed (flood damage), but we went in anyway. The feeling we had walking up Scott Tower Road, was one of isolation and trepidation. No one is coming to help you if you need it once you get past the locked gate. Burnt-out campfires in the middle of the road along with the brocken bottles and graffiti are there all along the way. Once one arrives at the Tower, the general feeling is one of creepiness. Even at midday. Beer and booze bottles, some smashed, some not, tons of weeds and overgrowth, a couple of smashed bikes, those big plastic party cups everywhere. Happily (I guess) there was no one else there. The door to the Tower was open, but we declined to go in and up. Took a few pics and got the hell out of there. Truth be told: even in the best of times, when the park was still open, the Tower smelled like urine and trash was everywhere. Its just abandoned and creepy and overgrown and isolated (I guess I said that all before), Still its more fascinating now thatn ever. I do want to go back (with more guys this time, and really check it out. As it was, my wife and I couldnt wait to get outta there! To VANDOG: I admire your balls and appreciate your pics and interest. Hey, theres another (vanished) Holyoke landmark that Im curious about. Do you remember the concrete Tyrannosaur that stood on Northampton St. past the old entrance to Mt. Park? I wonder if there are any telltale signs of it left. A footing, perhaps?
Posted by Bristol Curries on 11.11.08 at 13:44
Just to be clear, this story wasn't Vandog's. He writes an excellent blog on all things Holyoke, and is well worth a look. His most recent post on Scott Tower can be found here: http://ramblingvandog.blogspot.com/2008/08/return-to-scott-tower.html Sorry you were so wigged out, Bristol. I've been up to the tower a number of times now, and I've never had cause to be any more scared than I am walking in the woods. The neglect and the trash are sad, but not threatening. Nicole n Chris, your work and enthusiasm have far surpassed my expectations, and I thank you for taking the bull by the horns. I look forward to seeing what you've done, and I'd enjoy connecting and helping at some point. Thank you!
Posted by Mark R. on 11.11.08 at 17:16
So good to hear that another piece of Holyokes fascinating history has caught the interest of folks. Does a clean up this Saturday work for anyone? How about we mob the place with trash cans at noon. Stan Geddes
Posted by Stan Geddes on 11.13.08 at 19:15
Hello all. Chris and I went up to the tower today to do some clean up and when we got back to our car our windows were smashed. The holyoke police did not care and made a smart remark to us when we told them what we were trying to do. .... Be careful if anyone drives up there. dont leave car unattended thats for sure......
Posted by nicole n chris on 11.20.08 at 15:10
WELL DURING THIS SUMMER MY HUSBAND TOOK ME UP TO SCOTT TOWER FOR THE FIRST TIME. WE HAVE THIS SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE PAST DONT ASK WHY CAUSE I MYSELF REALLY HAVE NO CLUE ANYWAYS HE WENT TO THE TOP OF THE TOWER AND I BEING THE CHICKEN I AM STAYED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TOWER. I LOVE THE PLACE. THERE IS A SENSE OF PEACE ITS LIKE CALM SURROUNDED BY CHAOS. BUT JUST LIKE MANY THINGS IN THIS STATE(MOUNTAIN PARK) NOTHING WILL REALLY HAPPEN AND ITS SAD CAUSE I HAVE FOUR KIDS AND I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE SOMEWHERE LOCAL NOT FULL OF NEEDLES AND THE HOMELESS TO BRING THEM TO PLAY.
Posted by MELI MARTINEZ on 12.20.08 at 21:02
Scott Tower Memories and Thoughts: Thank you Mark for writing such a well researched, well written and comprehensive article about Scott Tower and environs. I remember Scott Tower well and fondly for as a child growing up in Holyoke during the the 40s and early 50s (HHS Class of 1954) I visited the tower many times during its heyday when everything was relatively new and unspoiled. I lived on Lower Westfield Road when it was still gravel, relatively untraveled, populated by a number of small family farms and before the advent of Interstate 91 and the mall. Graffiti in those days was usually limited to chalk as the ubiquitous, damnable spray cans were not yet invented. Accordingly, it saddens me to see what public neglect, vandalism and the erosion of a sense of community has wrought to both the Tower and the surrounding park. Colonel Walter Scott (1861 - 1935) would roll over in his grave if he knew how far we have come from his vision of a community park for relaxation and renewal. Kudos to Nicole & Chris (and several others) for their attempts to cleanup the place some what. Uncovering the "dedication rock" was a nice piece of work and a real "find" for I remember that marker but unfortunately can't recall what the inscription said. Perhaps one of the dedicated readers will post the inscription. Also thanks to ramblingvandog's blog for heightening awareness of the degradation of one of Holyoke's jewels. If I remember correctly, City Councilman Lubold made an attempt to resurrect interest in restoring the park a few years back but it apparently came to naught. As a trustee of a couple of not-for-profit (502c3) organizations in Maine, it is my opinion that what is needed is the formation of such an organization which, once established, could seek funding from community groups fraternal organizations, foundations, corporations and individuals (think, saving the Mountain Park Merry-Go-Round $uccessful efforts). Yes, it would be a Herculean task but who, if not this generation? Surely, this historically significant park is worth saving. BTW, for more information on Colonel Scott, point your browser to: David T. Cousineau Cape Neddick, Maine and Naples, Florida
Posted by David T. Cousineau on 12.21.08 at 13:27
Nicole n Chris, your work and enthusiasm have far surpassed my expectations, and I thank you for taking the bull by the horns. I look forward to seeing what you've done, and I'd enjoy connecting and helping at some point. Thank you!
Posted by avg on 1.23.09 at 8:44
I lived on Ridgewood Ave. back in the 1940"s. My friends and I used to walk up the hill on that street to Community Field (known to us as the "Q", hang a right and proceed up to the tower. What a great view from the top!
Posted by Bob Epstein on 1.26.09 at 8:48
I lived on Brookline and Belvedere Aves. in the 40's and 50's, just down the hill from the park, and spent a great deal of my childhood at Community Field, playing in the brook, and also sledding on Anniversary Hill. My best friend and I would sometimes walk or ride our bikes up to Scott Tower, bringing a little picnic lunch. It wasour favorite spot. Many great childhood memories there. I live in Connecticut now, but often think about revisiting the tower. But frankly I am leary of the dangers that might be lurking there. It would be a wonderful thing if this area could be cleaned up and restored as the park it was intended to be, secured to be free from vandals and other unsavory characters, to be enjoyed and appreciated once again. I guess I just don't understand why such a beautiful place is/was allowed to deteriorate to it's present condition. It's as if the city just doesn't care. As for the hideous cell towers....I can see them from I-91. I could accept that if the money was being spent on restoring the park, but apparently from reading the comments here, that's not happening. You know the old saying: "You never know what you've got 'til it's gone". Hopefully, very hopefully, this will not happen to Scott Tower.
Posted by Carol on 1.28.09 at 17:12
Dear Readers: Does anyone know the inscription on Dedication Rock that was uncovered by Nicole and Chris and posted on 11.6.08 at 18.13. Curious, David T. Cousineau (see my posting of 12.21.08 at 13.27 Thank you!
Posted by David T. Cousineau on 5.22.09 at 13:43
yo i just partied here this weekend haha amazing
Posted by john on 9.27.09 at 19:50
Hello: My neice recently sent me a picture that you posted of the work crew that helped to build Scott Tower and clear thearea to make a lovely parkmany years ago. My father is in that picture; in the front row second from the right. His name was John Tabone and lived off of Homestead Ave, across the street from where the community college is now. He told my neice about the tower but I had never heard about it and I grew up in Holyoke. I do come back there every so often and my husband and I will try to find trhe tower and climb up inside and experience what my father did so many years ago. Thank you again for a wonderful article. Joanne(Tabone) Osterhout
Posted by Joanne Osterhout on 9.28.09 at 16:45

I will forward this on to many Holyokers who will appreciate the excellent job you've done on this! Thanks

Posted by Glenn on 3.8.10 at 17:55

Mark,

It would be nice, (and not copyright infringement) if you actually cited or mentioned that the older photographs of the tower and workers came from the photography collection at the Holyoke Public Library History Room & Archive. I'd suggest you add this information so that others can have a look at the originals too.

Posted by Penni Martorell on 3.9.10 at 9:09

I went to Scott Tower and I find it beautiful. My friends unfortunately like to throw things off of it but I like to just sit at the top and see the amazing view. I would love to go explore the rest of the park but I'm afraid that the people I go with won't find it as wonderful as I do. It's a piece of history and it should be cherished not trashed.

Posted by Mariah on 8.21.10 at 19:19

I ran across Scott Tower in a pictoral history book of Holyoke and set out to find if it was even still there. I'm not from this area originally, so i didn't know the history of Anniversary Hill. Upon arrival, thanks to Google Maps, I parked next to the now dried-up wading pool and crossed my fingers that the road that ran under the highway was where I was looking for (and that my car wouldn't be broken into). I was met with 4 young adults on a three-wheeler and dirt bikes who i spoke with to see if it was "alright" if I walked on the road, since they had evidently claimed it as theirs. I eventually found the tower, after being grazed by dirt bikers multiple times, and was saddened to see what shape it was in- the amount of graffiti was insane, and everything overgrown. I noticed some kids at the top, and yelled up to see if I could come to the top. They decended and I said I had read about the tower in a book, they were interested to learn of the WPA and the history of the park- they had never known anything about it before. What a view from the top! I am saddened by the state of the park, and nostalgic for a time when citizens cared for their public treasures. For a new comer to western mass, I sincerely hope that more is done to preserve these jewels lost to neglect and abuse. The irony of alll that vandilisim and abuse? There seems to be a police officer that lives at the head of the road to Community Field.

Lets put that cell phone money to work and start restoring this park. It's time to start restoring the park to its former glory.

Posted by Travis Fifield on 8.29.10 at 22:53

I walked up to Scott Tower a lot in the 50's, was a teenager in the 60's when youth would go up there in cars to "make out", and my daughter rode her tricycle up Columbus Ave. to the park in the 80's. I helped build the wooden playscape that was there for quite some time before weather and vandals made it unsafe. I have not been there since the park was clean and rebuilt around 2012, but am glad to see it reagin some care and usage.

Posted by Lynda on 1.7.14 at 18:39
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