Why is there a lighthouse on top of a mountain?


The War Memorial on top of Mount Greylock

It is not a lighthouse, it is a beacon.

What is the difference? It is all a matter of context; a lighthouse is specifically designed to guide ocean-going vessels away from treacherous shores and help in pinpointing their location. A beacon is more general, “a fire or light that is set up in high position.” However, when the beacon atop Mount Greylock was built in 1931 it was the golden age of aviation, well before IFR and GPS. Pilots depended on landmarks they could see on the ground while flying their Ford Trimotor passenger planes. This is not to take away from the symbolic meaning of the beacon, the light is a memorial for all men and women who gave their lives in war.
Today the new LED based lighting system shines at 1.9 million lumens, four times the strength of the previous light system. The tower has been refinished for the third time in its history, now with a new silicone grout system that holds great promise for keeping out the water that has plagued the structure for most of its 86 years. The inner chamber was restored as well. It is an ethereal space with a gold-leafed conical ceiling and quotations inscribed along the perimeter wall. If you are game you can climb the internal spiral staircase 50 feet above to view points of interest in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire as well as Massachusetts. This vantage point also orients you to your immediate surroundings, Bascom Lodge and the Overlook.

But most visitors choose not to, or are unable to, climb the stairs, and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, in keeping with its mission of making all of its sites accessible, selected Content•Design to develop a way in which the tower experience could be made accessible. In our previous blog we discuss how we approached the a alternative experience development. Below is a description of the installed exhibits.

Tower interpretive panel

The Monument tower interpretation panel recently installed atop Mount Greylock.

The Bronze panel informs the visitor what is inside the inner chamber, dimensional elements reveal the interior of the tower, especially the inner chamber and spiral staircase. These are in extreme relief and provide a tactile experience. Other elements such as the eagle above the door and the US Army medallion in the chamber floor are depicted. The three-0foot wide panel is set on a Barrie, VT granite block that is a match for the other granite elements on site.

On the newly refurbished parapet that surrounds the Mounument, a wayside reproduces the views in each cardinal direction. The images not only show the distant landmarks but also places near the tower, a challenge to the designers since no single image from each direction taken by the photo drone would provide the view a visitor would see.


Greylock North View Wayside Panel
The new wayside interpretive panel looking north

The North view is a good example of how limited a visitors view can be from the parapet, the panel image allows visitors to look over the trees in front. We deliberately chose to keep the waysides simple. No other stories although Greylock is the source of so many good stories, true and fanciful. That is left to the visitor center eight miles below, here we keep the visitor focused on the view and identifying landmarks. Note the use of stainless steel posts for durability in the boreal conditions. The phenolic panel is supplied by Fossil Industries .

The granite was supplied by Barrie Granite in Vermont, and the bronze panel cast by Matthews International . Both were installed by Berkshire Monumental Works  of North Adams.