Few topics have generated more words in this newspaper over the years than Fort Revere – words of lament about its condition, words of awe about its beauty, words of hope when a revitalization effort seems to be gaining traction.
In fact, among the first words ever published under my byline in this newspaper in 1984 lamented the graffiti on the walls of the fort’s gun emplacements. As a plucky teenager learning to appreciate the unique history of Hull, I suggested in a letter to the editor that we take inventory of the vandals’ names and hometowns painted on the bunker walls, track down the “artists,” and have the police department invite them back to clean it up. In the 37 years since that letter appeared, many others have expressed similar opinions about the fort’s condition.
As we all have aged, so has Fort Revere. And its problems have only gotten worse.
This week, and for the past several, the Times has featured hopeful words about Fort Revere – some of the most promising yet – as Article 16 on Monday’s town meeting warrant asks voters to spend $2.2 million on a complete restoration of the historic 85+-foot-tall water tower.
This is the most significant investment of public money in Fort Revere in decades, and it deserves a “yes” vote.
For the long line of activists whose quixotic belief that a renovation project could be mounted – estimable names like Helen Raymond, Anne Kinnear, Thayer Baldwin, Gladys Means, Daniel Short, Rick O’Donnell, Rick Shaner, Matt Tobin, Maxine Nash, Don Ritz, and Judeth Van Hamm among many others involved with the historical commission and Fort Revere Park & Preservation Society – Article 16 is a tremendous step forward. The project under consideration will, according to Town Manager Philip Lemnios, restore access to the tower and its observation deck, which offers an unparalleled 360-degree view from Cape Ann to Provincetown.
Built in 1903 to provide water storage and viewfinding capability to the military operations atop Telegraph Hill, the tower is one of the oldest reinforced concrete structures in the country. It, along with the fort’s gun batteries, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After World War II, the fort was decommissioned and the land sold to private owners; around the time of the Bicentennial celebration in 1976, the tower and parts of the fort were donated to the town. In the 1980s, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts purchased several other plots of land to protect them from development. Various efforts to revitalize the fort over the years started and stopped for various reasons, and in 2012 the tower was closed permanently after it was deemed unsafe for visitors.
The advisory board has voted 8-1-1 to support Article 16, and many Hull residents are excited about reversing the decline of this unique asset to the community. Of course, it is understandable that some voters are hesitant to spend money renovating a public park when there are competing priorities such as roads, seawalls, and other capital needs.
However, like those other projects, the tower is not going anywhere, and cost of inaction will only continue to grow.
Fort Revere has been neglected for too long. It’s time to invest in restoring this iconic historic landmark.
Times Contributing Editor and Hull native Christopher Haraden is a member of the Hull Historical Society and previously served on the Hull Historical Commission and the Fort Revere Park & Preservation Society.