Rye, New Hampshire

Pulpit Rock Tower, officially designated as Pulpit Rock Base-End Station (N. 142), is a remarkable structure with a rich history situated in Rye, New Hampshire.

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Tom Riley (GoXplr Account)

About This Location

Pulpit Rock Tower, officially designated as Pulpit Rock Base-End Station (N. 142), is a remarkable structure with a rich history situated in Rye, New Hampshire. This eight-story tower, constructed in 1943 as a part of the Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth, stands as a tangible reminder of the nation's involvement in World War II. After many years of abandonment, this historical landmark found new life through the efforts of the Friends of Pulpit Rock, a non-profit organization committed to preserving its legacy.

World War II and Coastal Defenses:

As World War II loomed, the United States initiated an extensive military mobilization to protect its coastal regions and harbors from potential threats. Pulpit Rock Tower, along with similar structures along the New Hampshire coastline, was strategically positioned to support these efforts. These facilities played a critical role in monitoring and safeguarding the nation's shores, providing early detection of potential threats from the sea or air.

The Harbor Defenses of Portsmouth held particular significance due to the presence of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the importance of safeguarding the waterways leading into Portsmouth Harbor. In addition to observation towers like Pulpit Rock, the region saw the construction of various coastal gun batteries, including Battery Seaman, Battery 204 at Fort Dearborn, Battery 205 at Fort Foster, and Battery Lytle at Fort Stark.

The Architecture and Purpose of Pulpit Rock Tower:

Pulpit Rock Tower, constructed in 1943 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, served as a Base-End Station, a crucial component of the coastal defense network. The tower was equipped with radar and communication systems to detect and track incoming vessels and aircraft, providing essential information for the timely response of defensive forces. Observers stationed within the tower would keep a vigilant watch for any enemy ships or aircraft, relaying coordinates and valuable information to nearby coastal gun batteries.

This eight-story tower stands at an impressive 73 feet in height, with walls that are 12 inches thick. Its lower six stories are dedicated to a spiral concrete staircase, while the top two floors serve as lookout points with narrow observation slits offering panoramic views of the surrounding area. The pinnacle of the tower features an observation platform, providing an elevated vantage point.

During World War II, the tower operated around the clock, with three men at a time monitoring and reporting the positions of any potential threats. Despite its critical role, the tower offered no plumbing, and its only source of heat was a coal stove. A nearby camp, known as Pulpit Rock Camp, housed barracks, gun emplacements, storerooms, generator shelters, and a searchlight position. During the war, Ocean Boulevard (also known as Route 1A) was closed and patrolled by servicemen to ensure security.

Post-World War II and Preservation:

After World War II, as the threat of attack receded, Pulpit Rock Tower became obsolete. In 1950, the Coastal Artillery Corps, which had manned the tower during the war, was officially disbanded. However, the tower found new purpose in 1954 when the U.S. Navy installed radar equipment to protect the Mine Defense Command at nearby Fort Stark.

In 1971, the tower was declared surplus government property. Subsequently, the New Hampshire Department of Fish & Game acquired the tower in 1978 to monitor illegal fishing and lobstering activities. Throughout the 1980s and early 2000s, the tower saw minimal use and began to deteriorate due to a lack of regular maintenance.

In 2008, the Friends of Pulpit Rock Tower, a non-profit organization, was established with the mission of preserving, restoring, and maintaining the tower. This organization became a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2009.

Also, the tower recieved the honor of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 16, 2010. This is a major honor and signifies just how unique this structure it. The National Park Service assigned the tower reference number 10000188 and it is listed as Pulpit Rock Base-End Station (N. 142).

Restoration and Public Access:

The Friends of Pulpit Rock Tower have made extensive efforts to maintain and restore the tower. They have undertaken initiatives such as adding a new roof, deck railings, custom windows, and handrails. Regular maintenance includes cleaning and painting to ensure the tower remains as authentic as it was in years past.

The organization has also made it possible for the public to access the tower for tours, offering an opportunity for visitors to experience its historical significance. While the specifics of visiting may vary, the tower is typically open on Memorial Day and Veterans Day weekends. Private tours and events can also be scheduled. If you are looking for more information, it is best to check out the non-profit's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/foprt.

Visiting Pulpit Rock Tower Today:

To visit Pulpit Rock Tower, one can park at the dirt lot along Ocean Boulevard (NH 1A) right in front of Neptune Drive. This parking is free and offers convenient access to the tower. A short walk up Neptune Drive leads to the tower, where an informational kiosk provides details about its history.

For those with an interest in history, Pulpit Rock Tower stands as a tangible link to the past, symbolizing the courage and dedication of those who served during World War II. Thanks to the diligent work of the Friends of Pulpit Rock, the tower remains not only a historic structure but also a beacon of national pride and heritage.

Location Features

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Ocean Boulevard (NH 1A), Rye, New Hampshire

GPS Coordinates:
43.033581, -70.720450
Directions to location:
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Directions to parking area:
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Parking Notes:
It is best to park at the dirt lot along Ocean Boulevard (NH 1A) right in front of Neptune Drive. You can then walk up Neptune Drive to see the tower up-close! Parking is free and ample.


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