The Summer issue of Penn’s Stewards, our three-times-a-year newsletter, includes an article on the history of fire towers in Pennsylvania. The cover photo is captioned, “An old wooden tower is replaced by a new steel tower. Date and location unknown.”

Fortunately for us, Paul Fagley (the environmental educator at the Greenwood Furnace State Park Complex) DID know its story!

Says Paul, “This photo came from the collection of T. Roy Morton, the first district forester in the Logan, now Rothrock State Forest. In the 1920 and 30s, he had all of the buildings and structures of the district photographed, creating a wonderful historical record. About 30 years ago, his daughter loaned this collection to the Rothrock Forest District office. Not quite knowing what to do with it, the district forester (Ralph Heilig) arranged with my manager at the time (Barry Wolfe) to go through the collection and document what might be useful. It took me several days to go through it.

There were over 1,000 photographs, and I selected just over 400 for copying. Many were duplicates, and there were quite a number of numbered trees in plots that had no historical value ( I did select a few as representative examples). I took these to Harrisburg, and Bert Ellsworth and I spent a day photographically copying them (digital copying didn’t yet exist). Unfortunately, Bert used a new type of film instead of the archival quality TRI-X black and white. The result was that the photos were slightly fuzzy, and had an odd purple hue (due to the film  substrate). As the collection had been returned by this point, we were unable to re-photograph them. Since that time, I have digitally restored them as best I could.

As this photo is part of that collection, and based on the tower’s design, that narrows it down to Loop, Jacks, and Little Flat. Through photo comparisons, I can reduce it to Little Flat, based on topography and other clues.

The tower was manufactured by Blaw-Knox company, which was and is a leading manufacturer of transmission towers. It was made in Pennsylvania, possibly in either Centre or Blair county . From what I understand the surviving Blaw-Knox towers are very rare today. These are easily distinguishable by the slanted lower part and straight upper part of the tower, and the stairs going corner to corner rather square to the tower. They were erected 1922-23. Little Flat is 1922. I believe the wood tower was built around 1916-17.”

Thank you, Paul!

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Mystery Solved!