FOX HILL TOWER
The War Memorial Tower on Fox Hill
The War Memorial Tower is a structure located at the summit of Fox Hill in Rockville, Connecticut. It stands in Henry Park and is a memorial to all Vernon and Rockville veterans.
Before European settlers came to the area, the Podunk tribe of Native Americans used Fox Hill as a lookout. 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. It was used as a recreation area, selling refreshments on the first floor and offering the use of a telescope on the top deck. An 1880 blizzard completely destroyed this tower except the bottom storey. Mr. Jeffery’s brother-in-law, the artist Charles Ethan Porter, used this as a studio for several years. After Mr. Porter’s death, the structure fell into disrepair and disappeared.
After World War I, the Town of Vernon and the City of Rockville desired to erect a memorial to the veterans of the World War. At about the same time, E. Stevens Henry bequeathed Fox Hill and the surrounding area to the city. This became Henry Park . It was finally agreed that a stone tower on Fox Hill would be a fitting memorial to the veterans, not only of the World War, but of all wars.
The tower was designed by a New York architect, Walter B. Chambers. He modeled it after a 1500 year-old Romanesque tower near Poitiers, France. It was constructed by the WPA over a period of two years (1937-1939). The total cost was about $71,200. Of this amount, $43,000 was appropriated by the Federal Government; the remainder was made up of local government appropriations and individual donations.
Dedication of the memorial took place on August 5, 1939. There were speeches given by local dignitaries as well as by Raymond Baldwin, Connecticut’s governor, and Vincent Sullivan, the state administrator of the WPA. An American Legion drum corps from Willimantic provided patriotic music, as did chimes from the Union Congregational Church.
Shortly before the memorial was dedicated, a World War I tank had been moved to the hill and was placed northeast of the tower. During World War II, the tank was removed and sent to be melted down as part of the war effort.
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. The Observation Platform near the top of the tower has stone-arched windows enclosed with glass. The roof is covered with slate shingles. 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.
A 200-foot long, 26-foot-wide promenade gives access to the main entrance of the tower. The promenade is paved with flagstones set in a random pattern, and has a concrete retaining wall along both sides.
Cascades and Courage George S. Brookes
Vernon Vignettes Hazel Lutz
State of Connecticut. “Historical Resources Inventory”
Vernon Survey 1995