Fire Observation Tower

Catskills, New York | C.1887

Photo Credit: Peter Crosby

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day, 1885, a new forest preserve was created, ensuring that the 3 million acres of New York woodlands would be kept “forever wild.” Exploitation by loggers had left behind dry, barren land that was especially susceptible to fire.

Two years later, the first mountaintop fire observation station was erected by a local sportsman’s club to protect their land. Constructed of timber, the inaugural tower stood tall for a few years until it was destroyed in an incident as tragic as it was ironic, as a presumed bolt of lightning struck, causing it…to burn down.

The state would later take over operations, and for nearly a century, more than 100 fire towers kept watch until 1988, when the first tower and cabin—in its official capacity—was closed. It still stands, however, stretching skyward to nearly fifty feet, and made of steel.

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