Highland Fire Tower Rises Again Pt. 2

In part one of this story on the re-birth of the iconic Highland County fire tower, Hamill “Skip” Jones talked about the tower’s origins and use. Now, he explains the extensive efforts that went into its restoration.

“Well, it was actually most of it in parts. We had a decision whether to re-construct it in its format of a rusty tower, or whether to do a total restoration, and we decided it would be best to do a total restoration. So it was totally disassembled – the steel, the iron parts were sent to Ashland, VA by truck and were re-galvanized. The bolts were sent to Illinois, to a special facility which cleaned and re-galvanized the bolts. And we thought about trying to use the old steps, which were made out of hemlock, but decided to do new hemlock steps.

“So everything came back to Richmond, and then Steve Good, Highland Welding company, did a fantastic job of re-constructing the tower where it is now – very detailed in their work. We did have to get a conditional use permit from Highland County to do this, which was approved, and there we are today.”

I asked Mr. Jones about public access to the tower.

“It is too much of a liability to leave it open all the time, and it is fenced in now, but I do plan from time to time to open it up for people to climb up the tower without charge, and our first ribbon cutting for the tower is July 8th, at 1:00. We’re going to have several firefighters up there, a fire truck – have a little ceremony, and then open the tower for anybody that wants to climb it, and hopefully if they’re so inclined, they’ll make a charitable donation to the Highland County Volunteer Fire Department. We also hope to do it again in the fall, if not sooner, with charitable donations going to the Highland County Historical Society.”

“We’ve heard nothing but very favorable comments about the project, and we hope it’s a good asset for the community and the return of a historic structure.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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