About This Location
Nestled in the Litchfield Hills of northwestern Connecticut, the abandoned Haystack Mountain Tower in Norfolk, Connecticut, stands as a testament to historical philanthropy and architectural splendor. This 50-foot-high stone tower, erected in 1929 atop the 1,680-foot Haystack Mountain, was generously donated by Ellen Battell Stoeckel, a name synonymous with local benefaction.
A journey to this tower is a trek through time and nature. Accessible through the 1.3-mile long Haystack Mountain Road (also known as Stoeckel Drive) off Connecticut Route 272, visitors can venture up to a small parking lot at the mountain's base. From there, a short hike leads to the tower.
The tower was built primarily of dark grey granite quarried right on site. Its construction, characterized by randomly laid stones and deeply recessed mortaring, speaks volumes of the era's craftsmanship. Inside, the tower features concrete steps leading to two intermediate landings, culminating in a metal stairway to the observation platform. Under a conical roof, eight openings offer unparalleled panoramic views. On a clear day, one can gaze upon areas in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even the Long Island Sound.
Designed by Ehrick K. Rossiter of Rossiter & Muller, the tower is a prominent local example of medieval Tudor Revival architecture. Costing around $50,000, it was dedicated in memory of Mrs. Stoeckel's husband, Carl Stoeckel, and marked the inauguration of the state park’s initial tracts of land.
The park itself, spanning 292 acres, is an ode to nature and history. Managed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Norfolk Land Trust, it offers hiking trails, a serene pond, picnic tables, and a compost toilet at the upper trailhead. From the tower’s summit, visitors are treated to views of the Berkshires, peaks in Massachusetts, New York, and the Green Mountains of Vermont.
In the nineteenth century, the mountaintop was bought by Robbins Battell, a philanthropist and adviser to Abraham Lincoln. He constructed a carriage road to the summit and erected a wooden tower called the Haystack Belvedere, granting public access to admire the views – a novel concept for the era. After the original tower was destroyed, Ellen Battell Stoeckel's generous donation led to the construction of the current stone tower, also known as the Stoeckel Memorial Tower. It opened in 1929.
Haystack Mountain Tower, struck by lightning in 2002, was saved from fire by local volunteer firefighters, further cementing its place in the community's heart. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, the tower continues to intrigue and inspire visitors.
Hiking to the tower is a popular activity, with trails accessible year-round. The Tower Loop Trail, part of an old carriage road, offers a scenic and slightly rugged approach to the summit. Parking at Haystack Mountain State Park is free, with the park gates open from 8 am to sunset daily.
The tower stands not just as a stone structure but as a beacon of historical significance, architectural beauty, and natural splendor, inviting explorers to uncover its storied past and enjoy its breathtaking present.