Ideas sought for anniversary celebration of 'Fox Hill Tower'

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Rockville - posted Wed., Dec. 18, 2013
The ReminderNews had an opportunity to photograph the almost-75-year-old Veterans' Memorial Tower from a unique angle during the fall of 2013, courtesy of the Vernon Fire Department. Photos by Steve Smith.
The ReminderNews had an opportunity to photograph the almost-75-year-old Veterans' Memorial Tower from a unique angle during the fall of 2013, courtesy of the Vernon Fire Department. Photos by Steve Smith.

As 2014 approaches, preparations are being made to celebrate a birthday of a local landmark. The Veterans' Memorial Tower at Henry Park, more-commonly referred to as "Fox Hill Tower," will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this coming year.

According to information on the Town of Vernon's website, Fox Hill was first used as a lookout by the Podunk tribe of native Americans. During clear weather, one can see Talcott Mountain, as well as Mount Tom and Mount Holyoke. The founders of Rockville cleared the hill of trees and used it as pastureland.

In 1878, a Mr. Jeffery of Meriden built a wooden tower on the summit of Fox Hill, which was used as part of a recreation area, before a blizzard destroyed the tower in 1880. After World War I, the Town of Vernon and the City of Rockville wanted to erect a memorial to the veterans of the war.  At about the same time, E. Stevens Henry bequeathed Fox Hill and the surrounding area to the city, which became Henry Park.

The tower was designed by a New York architect, Walter B. Chambers, who modeled it after a 1,500-year-old Romanesque tower near Poitiers, France. It was constructed by the WPA over a period of two years (1937-1939), and dedicated on Aug. 5, 1939.

The tower is an octagonal Romanesque structure, 72 feet tall and 24 feet in diameter. It sits on a granite platform and is built of local granite quarried in Tolland. Four bronze tablets are attached to the tower in the arcade – each is embossed with the symbol of a branch of the United States military.

The tower is a favorite subject of local photographers, as are the views from the tower, including Rockville and as far away as Mount Tom in Massachusetts. Students from Rockville High School and other area schools take photos at the tower on prom night and other occasions.

Vernon Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Dinnie said town officials are just beginning to discuss how to celebrate the tower's anniversary, and no firm plans have yet been made. “I've discussed the possibility,” Dinnie said. “We're going to be meeting within a couple of weeks with the mayor, but we don't have any ideas yet.”

The Aug. 5 date coincides with next summer's National Night Out Celebration, and Rockville has hosted a National Night Out event for several years, so it would seem a natural fit to combine the celebrations. Bryan Flint, a member of the Rockville Community Alliance, said the RCA may discuss a way to incorporate the tower into the National Night Out plans. Flint also had his own thoughts about the tower.

“It's a symbol of the town,” Flint said. “It puts everything in perspective when you look at Rockville from up there.”

Anyone with ideas about how to mark the 75th anniversary of the tower may contact Bruce Dinnie at bdinnie@vernon-ct.gov.


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