During the summer of 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed this fiftyfive-foot-high steel fire watchtower. Typical of the seven steel and five wooden fire watch-towers the CCC built elsewhere in the state, it is also representative of the intermingled history of forest management and recreational hiking in Vermont. The prefabricated tower consists of six stages of an open angle-iron steel frame, tapering from fourteen-feet square at the base to seven-feet square at the top. The stairs within rise to a hipped-roof observation cab. Each of the cab walls has two large, nine-light steel sash windows forming their upper half, allowing a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view from the south summit of Stratton Mountain. At 3,930 feet, this is the highest point in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont.
The State of Vermont began fire surveil-lance patrols in 1910, prompted by disastrous fires in 1908, and in 1914 landowners erected a fire watchtower on Stratton. About the same time, James P. Taylor, then an instructor at Saxtons River Academy, conceived of the Long Trail, a “footpath in the wilderness” to follow the ridgeline of the Green Mountains from Massachusetts to Canada. Taylor organized the Green Mountain Club in 1910 and began blazing the trail a year later. In 1914, along with 250 hikers from the Stration Mountain Club, he attended the opening of the Stratton tower, which became part of the Long Trail the next year. It was while hiking up Stratton that Benton MacKaye, forester and regional planner, conceived the idea for what became the Appalachian Trail. He published the concept in 1921 and the trail opened over Stratton and through Vermont in 1930. The original tower was partially destroyed during a winter storm in 1921, but the remains continued in use, and the Vermont Timberland Owners Association built a new one-room, wood-frame, gable-roofed watchman's cabin in 1928. It stands not far from the present tower.
The CCC erected the present tower as part of its many improvements on public lands throughout the state. It is, however, the only notable CCC work in the Stratton area because, at the time, the surrounding forest was primarily owned by the International Paper Company. Phone or radio communication with towers at Okemo Mountain in Ludlow and Mount Olga in Wilmington provided triangulation for the exact location of any fire spotted. Once aerial fire spotting commenced in 1950, use of watchtowers declined rapidly, although this tower remained in use until 1982. In 1988 the Green Mountain National Forest acquired the tower as part of a large land purchase, and it has since been maintained for recreational viewing. For those unable to hike to the Stratton tower, a similar steel fire tower is easily accessible in Allis State Park in Brookfield.