About This Location
Nestled in the picturesque Litchfield Hills, atop Mohawk Mountain, lies the abandoned Cunningham Tower, a stone structure shrouded in a veil of mystery and history. This seemingly ancient tower, which has been a part of the landscape for nearly a century, adds a touch of mystique to the already captivating Mohawk State Forest.
Mohawk Mountain, known for its significant elevation of 1,600 feet and panoramic views, has long been a strategic site. It was named after the Native American practice of lighting signal fires to warn of Mohawk raids. The allure of this mountain led to the formation of the Mohawk Tower Association in 1882 by the residents of Litchfield, Goshen, and Cornwall, Connecticut. Their objective was to establish an observation tower to enjoy unobstructed views in every direction.
The first iteration of this tower, a wooden pole structure, was erected in 1882 by Cyrus W. March and his son Charles. After opening to the public on July 4, 1883, it quickly became a popular destination, drawing hundreds of visitors in its initial years. However, by 1892, the wooden tower succumbed to neglect, collapsing and leaving behind a legacy of a once-thriving lookout point.
Enter Seymour Cunningham in 1912, a visionary who began acquiring land around Mohawk Mountain. With a majority interest in the Mohawk Tower Association, Cunningham set forth to resurrect the tower. In place of the fallen wooden structure, he erected a new round stone tower, aptly named “Aerie.” This 30-foot high and wide tower was surrounded by a sheep farm and thousands of newly planted seedlings. However, the sheep farm eventually failed, and the land, including the tower, was sold to Alain White. The White family's subsequent donation of the property to the state in 1921 marked the beginning of a new chapter for Cunningham Tower.
Today, Cunningham Tower stands as a relic of the past. Though its second level has disappeared, opening the top to the skies, and the ravages of time and vandals have left their marks, the tower still exudes an aura of intrigue. The large fireplace, a centerpiece of the structure, hints at gatherings and warmth in days gone by. Nowadays, the tower largely remains a silent witness to the passage of time.
Interestingly, Cunningham Tower is devoid of the ghost stories that often accompany such historic and abandoned sites. Its presence is a peaceful one, inviting visitors to explore and picnic in its vicinity. A short walk from the parking area on Toomey Road, the tower is easily accessible and offers a unique glimpse into Connecticut’s past.
Cunningham Tower forms part of the blue-blazed Mohawk/Mattatuck Trail in Mohawk Mountain State Park and Mohawk State Forest. Not far from the ski area, it is a highlight on the official “Northern Section” trail map. The gates to the forest and state park are open from April to November, with no parking fees, making it an inviting destination for hikers and history enthusiasts alike.
This historic tower, perched atop Mohawk Mountain, is more than just an abandoned structure; it's a tangible connection to Connecticut's past, a symbol of the ever-changing landscape, and a testament to the enduring beauty of the Litchfield Hills. Whether you're a history buff, a hiking enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the allure of forgotten places, Cunningham Tower is a must-visit destination that promises a journey back in time and an escape into nature's serene embrace.