Sunday, February 21, 2010

Didja Know? The Smoke Rise Tower

Didja Know?The two recent stories about the Smoke Rise Tower - The Smoke Rise Tower on Kitty Ann Mountain and Tower Tales: Smoke Rise to Honor Founder - reminded me that Cornie Hubner had written one, too, in his Didja Know? series. As with his other stories, you'll note several creative touches...

The Smoke Rise Tower

Kitty Anne Tower was built with the same granite used in the Brooklyn Bridge, quarried in Riverdale. It is 80' high and stands on the highest point in Smoke Rise 1156' above sea level. Designed and supervised by the estate superintendent, Joe Sisco, in 1904 with local labor, it became a star attraction for favored guests and neighbors.

Woman by Smoke Rise TowerGuests were transported in regally appointed carriages, by liveried coachmen, much like landed European Gentry, to gourmet meals served at the summit. The vista of undulating unending emerald green forest, dotted with sparkling blue lakes and ponds, so close to the big city, amazed the most blase guest. Conversation often turned to the story of the hermit for whom the hill was named.

Kitty Ann was the educated world traveler, plain 24 year "old maid" heiress to a fabulous fortune. Ignoring the warnings of parents and friends she became engaged and was jilted at the altar by her suave, dastardly, perfidious, bigamous fortune hunting nobleman lover (described as in the "penny dreadfuls" of the day). Unable to face her ignominious future, she disappeared. Months later, fearing recognition, she abandoned her fatherless son, fled the hovel of the kind Jackson Whites who had sheltered her and began her hermit existence on our mountain. Variations of the story have been told agreeing only that she vanished, never more to be heard of, when the Kinney family arrived in 1880.

[Note the young woman standing at the base of this early Smoke Rise Tower photo above. Might she be Kitty Ann?]

Smoke Rise Fire TowerThe Tower was a wonder from the time the oxen hauled loads of granite inched their ways painfully to the summit, until the fabulous circular iron stairway was installed. Local workers became experienced masons while earning generous "hard money" wages available otherwise only in the smelly Rubber or dangerous Powder works. One old timer proudly proclaimed he would always know "where to get money" as he had sealed five pennies in the foundation.

When completed, the Lord of the Manor offered this vantage point to the Forest Service and regular patrols, increasing to 24 hour manning, when tinder dry conditions required, provided protection as far as High Point. Its value was proven many times especially in the 30s when a seven mile fire extending from Echo Lake to Split Rock lasting two weeks, required several hundred fire fighters, directed from this command point. Again in '55 when supplies and over 2500 workers directed from the Tower spent a week extinguishing a blase that threatened the whole north end of Smoke Rise.

[Note the structure at the top of the Smoke Rise Tower in the photo above. It would have protected patrols and spotters from the elements.]

Family at top of Smoke Rise TowerDuring World War II, it was manned 24 hours daily by members of the Airplane Spotters volunteers from area towns. Because of its importance, it was regularly checked by the military to assure its full staffing. An envied assignment in sunshine and fair weather, the blasting winds and frigid winter assignments were acts of Patriotism.

Infrequently used in the late '20s, several steps were removed about 10 or 12 feet from the floor, to discourage venturesome locals from further ascents. This provided a challenge the local youths soon mastered, but the rapidly rusting staircase offered a safety hazard that prompted the sealing of the entrance in the mid '50s. Until some Club activity can provide a safe, entertaining use, it will continue only as a landmark for all and special beacon for planes.

[Note: the photo of this family looks to have been taken in the 30s or 40s which means that the steps would have been passable...]

NOTE: The images above are courtesy of Tom Kline. They cannot be used or reproduced without permission and attribution.

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