Historical Timeline

Tower

 1922    – Mr. Peter McEwen, District Forester assumed control of about 75 seasonal patrol rangers, and began organizing an effective system of forest protection

1923    – a network of towers blanketing devised as system for fire detection for area previously patrolled on foot or by canoe

– proposal for two 80ft steel towers and a number of smaller wooden ones

– 56,000 acres of forest destroyed by fire that year

1925    – District Forester receives permission to have 3.5 acre site surveyed for tower on top of “Westgarth’s Hill” (named for original owner of property, the name quickly changed to “Tower Hill” after the construction of the tower)

– location chosen as equidistant from Pte au Baril, Moon River and Ardbeg and because it could be seen from a long distance when approaching Town by road, water or rail

– the Tower would be an “outstanding landmark in town”

1926    – site purchased for $50

1927    – approval granted for an 80 ft tower (originally requested 100 ft, but too expensive to build) to be built by Goold, Shapley & Muir Co. Ltd. of Brampton

– tower design an adaptation and expansion of a windmill tower

– believed to be the only one of its type built in the province – DF wanted a tower specifically designed to double as a public observation deck and fire tower

– total cost of building tower (including ranger and DF hours) was $1,500

1935    -tower system reached its peak of usefulness for fire detection, detecting 63% of fires in the district

1954    -Department began to develop tower as a communications centre- radio equipment installed on tower for less interference and to improve transmission of signals (eliminating need for hundreds of miles of telephone wires)

1966    – tower network fire detection system abandoned, rendered obsolete by airplanes

1973    – tower closed to public after being declared unsafe

1974    – new communications tower built 100 yards from gardens and old tower dismantled

1975    -new tower opened

Tower Hill Plantation

1927    – idea of reforestation experimental and educational “ examples to the public and experiments to note the growth of planted trees under as nearly average conditions as may be found here”

– site barren and unattractive with houses built along the river at its base and on the slope facing town but nothing at the crown

– 15 acres planted with 22,000 trees (mostly pine: white, red and jack, some scotch pine, red maple and birch) on mostly private land

– trees were watered and tended by the rangers and monitored for insect and disease problems (early IPM program?)

1929    – presence of Leconte’s Pine Sawfly noted and treated (first appearance of the pest in the district)

1930    – size of plantation doubled by planting 15 acres with mixed conifers and hardwoods

1931    -planting completed on 3 acres on steep slope between Great North Road and CPR tracks

-11,000 pines added to fill gaps left by trees that had succumbed to drought conditions

1950    -CPR removed trees from its property in order to build oil storage tanks

1955    – a departmental bulletin noted that hundreds of birds had sought refuge in the plantation during a bad late winter storm before heading to their nesting grounds

1970    -Chamber of Comemrce requests the plantation be cut down from the edges of the hill so that people who couldn’t climb the tower could view the bay – Ministry refused on the basis that it would expose view of oil tanks and spoil the setting of the park and gardens

Tower Hill Gardens

1927    – directive from Forestry Branch that “District Forester is given complete authority over his staff, is allowed to handle his     district as he sees fit and is held fully responsible”

–  Mr. McEwen took it upon himself to create a garden using resources at hand:

1929    – letter seeking advice on plants and flowers describes development to that point

– McEwen convinced the town PUC to share the cost of a water line under the guise of fire protection for the plantation, garden and tower

1930    – acquired a 1.5 ton Rugby (truck) which they equipped with a box to haul fill and rocks up the hill

– Forestry Branch report indicated that the tower and garden was already a popular spot they could not abandon: 2026 visitors signed the book at the top of the tower, many more visited the gardens

– DF acquired $600 to build a 16X30 ft frame bungalow for the towerman- he designed the strcture himself ensuring that the building harmonized with the grounds

1931    – construction of fishpond and model of tower

– design and fabrication of sundial with motto “It’s Later than you Think”

1934    – rock garden around base of tower completed – planted mainly with coniferous shrubs (not flowers)

1945    – employees climbed to roof to turn lights back on after WWII

– the Department acquired a parcel of 11 acres from the Beatty family which had been part of the plantation in order to protect it

Mid 1950’s     – small menagerie of Canada geese, guinea hens, pheasants and ducks

1956    -6.5 acres of land acquired from the Town (Ranger Cabin was located on this parcel)

– construction begun on road from Forest Street to site

– bathroom built in Ranger Cabin

1982?  -property acquired from Ministry of Natural Resources to be developed for recreational and tourism purposes (potential location for Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, District Museum, performance space and art gallery)

1986    – property leased (20 years) to the West Parry Sound District Museum Board  – gardens and Tower under jurisdiction of the Museum- Ranger cabin opened as a Museum Shoppe to raise funds for the new building – Shoppe has 5,033 visitors during a 34 day period up to August 23rd)

1992    -West Parry Sound District Museum opens at its new location on Tower Hill

2003    – gardens and Tower revert to the Town as the cost of maintenance too onerous for the Museum

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