The Tower on Fox Hill
Tower on Fox Hill (also known locally as the War Memorial Tower) is a building located at the summit of Fox Hill in Rockville, Connecticut. The current tower, 72 feet (22 m) high, stand on the site of a former 60 foot (18 m) tower which stood briefly during the late 19th century.
In earlier times, when Native Americans still lived in the area, the hill was used as a lookout for the Podunk tribe, who were competing with the Nipmucks and Mohegans for the areas around Mischenipsit Lake.
Fox Hill commands a broad view of the Connecticut River Valley. Weather permitting, Mount Tom, Mount Holyoke and Talcott Mountain may be seen by the naked eye. At the time, the hill was without trees and growth. Each year, the Podunks burned the undergrowth as part of the normal 'forest management' that they practiced; wood was also used for heating purposes and settlers cut down any large trees for firewood. The cleared land would then be used as pastureland. Early pictures of Fox Hill show only some small trees on the summit.
In the first issue of the 'Rockville High School Magazine', which preceded the 'Banner', published in 1877, an editorial appeared which expressed the students' hope that a tower would be built on Fox Hill.
Finally, in 1878 a Mr. Jeffrey of Meriden erected a wooden observation tower. The tower was 20 feet square at the base and extended sixty feet (18 m) upwards up to a ten foot square (10 m²) platform at the top. The walls of the ground floor were enclosed and ice cream and refreshments were sold. The upper platforms were open. A telescope was available and a 15¢ admission charge was collected for the opportunity to climb the tower and use the 'spy glass.'
It seems the Jeffrey's Tower was very popular although short-lived. On February 3, 1880, a severe blizzard destroyed the structure. It was not rebuilt and the broken timbers became tangled with vines and bushes. The first floor remained standing. Charles Ethan Porter, brother-in-law of Jeffrey used it as his studio around 1889. He painted still lifes there during the winter or when it rained.
After Mr. Porter died, the small structure fell into disrepair and eventually disappeared by 1923. During the next 60 years two homes were built on the south side of the summit but the tower was not rebuilt.
The Memorial Tower was completed in 1939, having been started two years earlier in 1937. The tower is dedicated to the Veterans of all wars from the Town of Vernon. The dedication took place on Saturday, August 5, 1939.
The building itself cost approximately $75,000. The Work Projects Administration supplied the labor and materials. The town, city, and individuals contributed the rest.
The War Memorial Tower is 72 feet (22 m) high, has a promenade 220 feet (67 m) long and its foundation rests on solid rock. The tower itself is made of native stone. There is an observation platform near the top of the tower. Bronze tablets bearing the names and inscriptions of three branches of the United States military - Army, Navy and Marine Corps - appear on the walls.
The tower is now considered part of Henry Park (named after E. Stevens Henry, the original owner) which is maintained by the Vernon-Rockville Parks and Recreation Department.