Associated Press Writer
MOUNT WASHINGTON, Mass. (AP) - Like generations of other
mountain kids, Orville Garrett grew up raising his eyes to the
heights and the fire tower that had stood on the peak of Mount
Everett for nearly a century.
So when the state took down the tower it hadn't used for decades
- plucking it off the Berkshire summit by helicopter - and
advertised the pieces on the online auction site eBay, Garrett, 38,
decided to make an offer.
And with the help of a friend - "I'm not that computer
oriented," he said - Garrett wound up owning a piece of local
history for $510.
His reason for outbidding four other folks - all local residents
it turned out - wasn't fancy.
"It's home. It's part of the town," he said. "From the time I
was born it was there."
For as long as Garrett could remember, he could see the tower or
its predecessor from the kitchen window of his parents' home in
this little town of 130 people. After he married and moved down the
road, he could see the tower from his own kitchen window.
No matter how far he traveled, Garrett said, he knew he was
close to home when he could see the tower cresting the state's
second-highest peak.
And there were family connections. His great uncles had all
worked on the tower as fire spotters, and his uncle was the last
fire lookout to be hired by Berkshire County before it turned
operation of the tower over to the state.
On clear days, the tower's spectacular top-of-the-world view of
the southwestern corner of Massachusetts afforded views of the
Catskills and Adirondacks in New York to the Green Mountains in
"I can remember as a kid going up there with my mother and all
my cousins," he said. "It was what I saw every day until the
middle of April. Now the mountain seems very bare."
The state replaced the tower with a new 40-foot structure in
1970, but never used it as a lookout.
It was actually the third erected on the 2,600-foot summit since
1915, according to the Historic Lookout Register maintained by
Forest Fire Lookout Association, a private restoration group.
The decision to raze the tower split the small town, with some
lobbying hard for its removal to help protect the delicate summit,
and others arguing equally vigorously for its restoration.
Still, Garrett, who was re-elected last month to a third term as
Town Meeting Moderator, said he's "gotten lots of calls" and
offers of help from people on both sides since becoming the high
bidder. "Even some that wanted it taken down have offered me
money," he said.
After hauling the pieces off the state field, Garrett, who runs
an excavating business, says his first task will be to have a
structural engineer advise him on repairing the tower, which was
cut apart rather than unbolted during the removal, which cost the
state $49,000.
Then he hopes to find a new home for it in Mount Washington.
"I'm up for all types of suggestions," he said. "I think its
going to be a long project. But, hopefully we can find a place
where we can enjoy it some more."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)