Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bear Hill Tower, Stoneham

Bear Hill Tower

Few weeks ago, I went to Wright's Tower in Medford, the tower looking down the Medford section of I-93. The tower sitting on a hill at the Middlesex Fells Reservation was built as a part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects during the 30's to ease the unemployment. I personally call those towers as "job creation towers". Quite amount of job seemed to be created by stacking Massachusetts stone into towers.

When I learned about another tower in the Fells called Bear Hill Tower, I had no idea where it was. As Dave's Photo Blog calls as "tower 2", it is tucked behind of the north end of the Fells. Distance wise, Bear Hill Tower is very close to I-93, but have you ever seen it from the highway? I'm not talking about Wright's Tower. Unlike the popular sister tower, Bear Hill Tower is invisible from I-93. I guess it's a trick of terrain.

If you see I-93 and a gravel heap on your left, you are in

The other reason why the awkward position Bear Hill Tower is in is: how do we get there? As Dave's Blog suggests, the best, easiest route is from exit35 on I-93 South. I have to explain there is NO exit35 on I-93 weird. Anyway, please consult for a map for direction.

We somehow managed to park our car at a nondescript parking lot. I and B. weren't sure that's the right place, but the doubt was somewhat erased when excited two big dogs sprouting out from a car next to ours. I thought those buddies were going to eat me. After you secured a parking spot, the job is 90% done. Just follow an uphill trail for few minutes. 

A friend called my cell. I explained to her that we were on a trail.

"So, you are with B."


"Good. Because my friend saw a bear on a trail in New Hampshire."

I was about to say "Yeah, it's good because if we happen to see a bear, we could use each other as a bait."

But that's a kind of things you should keep in your mind only; a bad joke. Anyway, the big canines we met at the parking would be more than happy to pick a fight with a bear...Wait, wait, we were on BEAR HILL!!

The tower was adjacent to a functioning water holder. The tower or water holder; which one was built first? (Note on 07/09/2011: Bear Hill Water Storage was completed in 1986 Source)

Like Wright's Tower, I thought Bear Hill Tower was a job creation tower by the WPA. But cement finish isn't their cup of tea. It has to be stone cladding!

Apparently, the history of Bear Hill Tower was much older than I expected. There had been a wooden observation tower on Bear Hill. The installment of an electric trolley station at Sheepfold (Map) in 1910 resulted an increased visitors to the Fells. You can imagine the early 20th century landscape of leisure from such trail names as Soap Box Derby Track and Railroad Trail. In accordance with the establishment of the trolley station, the wooden tower on Bear Hill was replaced by a reinforced concrete tower planned by the Stickney & Austin in the same year the station was opened. (from Friends of the Fells)

Is this 100 years old? Are you serious? Somehow I didn't want to believe the information.

Let's make sure it's safe...

The spiral steps seemed to go on forever because the wide openings (thanks, reinforced concrete) made me feel rather insecure. I don't recommend the tower to people with acrophobia or agoraphobia.  

Looking closed New England Memorial Hospital

I couldn't recognize I-93, and the view of downtown Boston wasn't as striking as Wright's Tower's. Instead, the view of Spot Pond was nice.

Why was this tower built in a first place? In general the WPA towers were built primarily for functional purpose like watching out for a forest fire and/or German U-boat. My guess is that Bear Hill Tower was solely built for a leisure purpose. As a panorama went out of a fashion of leisure, the water holder was installed right next to the tower; I could see the top surface of the holder very well from the tower. But nowadays, an array of surveillance cameras seems to take place of the tower. Poor Bear Hill Tower. 

Locate Bear Hill Tower @ Google Map

A Bear Hill Tower Photo essay, Dave's Photo Blog:
Map, Friends of the Fells:
History, Friends of the Fells:


  1. Thanks for the link - glad you enjoyed your trip to Bear Hill Tower. The water holder was built much more recently than the tower. If memory serves, the water holder was built in the late 80's or early 90's.

  2. Hi David!

    Thank you for getting in touch with me. I love your artistic representation of Bear Hill Tower in your blog. Especially the one with an iron fence with a bent rod.

    Without your post, I wouldn't know about the place!

  3. Hi David,

    As a kid I would walk through the fells from Winchester to what we called the Stoneham tower (Bear Hill Tower)the 70's and early 80's. At that time there was no water holder and there was whole lot more of the woods. Seeing your photos really brought back memories.



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