Scott Tower is a fascinating abandoned structure in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The 54 foot tall stone tower can be found at the summit of Craft Hill. It features two awesome observation areas which offer sweeping views of the city along with Mount Tom to the north.
Establishing Scott Tower
The establishment of Scott Tower dates back to 1923, when the city of Holyoke began securing land to create a public park. Holyoke purchased many acres around Craft Hill and also received a large plot of land around the summit of the hill from Colonel Walter Scott. Scott donated the land because he believed this wonderful area should be open to the public in perpetuity. City planners had been hoping to secure the land around Craft Hill to build a park since the early 1900s. City planners were thrilled when the acquisition was successful. 1923 was a significant year because it was the 50th anniversary of Holyoke being incorporated as a city. For this reason, the park was named “Anniversary Hill Park.”
For many years, not much development occurred at the hill and the park was not used often. It was during the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) effort that the park was built out. The WPA was an American New Deal organization that employed millions of job seekers (mainly untrained males) to complete public works projects, such as building roads and public buildings. By executive order, it was established on May 6, 1935, as a crucial component of the Second New Deal. The working efforts continued through 1943. It was during 1940 that the WPA allocated $336,000 to transform Craft Hill in Holyoke into a world-class city park and recreation area.
Plans for the park were extensive. The plans included family-friendly trails, benches, picnic tables, roadways, babbling brooks, stone bridges, lookout areas, firepits, and, of course, a tower. It was aimed to become an amazing public resource for all members of the community along with visitors. Local newspapers praised the project and even mentioned it had the potential to be on the same level of New York’s Central Park. Much of the project was completed in 1940.
The tower at the top of the hill was named the Walter Scott Memorial Tower and it was officially completed in 1942. It stands 54 feet tall and is made of stone. The shape of the tower is very unique. There is a walled dais complete at the base of the tower and it has several stairways leading up. Its entryway is surrounded by a circle of pillars which support the observation deck on the second story of the tower. There is also an observation area at the top of the tower which offers visitors sweeping views of Holyoke and nearby Mount Tom. To get up the tower, there is a corkscrew stairway made of concrete. 68 steps take visitors from the base of the tower to the top. Above the upper observation post is a wonderful conical roof. Near the tower there were many fire pits and picnic tables so visitors could stay and enjoy the area.
Vandals Flocking To The Tower
Throughout the decades, the “hype” around the park and Scott Tower began to decline. Also, funds for upkeep were not ample. Graffiti became popular on the tower and a lot of litter started to compile. Fortunately, during the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon launched an effort to preserve urban parks and create some new ones. This program was known as the “Legacy of Parks” and it allocated $200 million dollars to impactful parks. During this program, Scott Tower got a nice refresh as repairs were done and graffiti was removed. This effort sadly did not help long-term.
It was during the 1980s that things really started to go downhill for the tower and the surrounding park. The trails began to get overgrown and the road leading up to the tower starting to fall into rough shape. Also, trash became a large problem. Locals were known for illegally dumping trash along the road to avoid fees. Car thieves also would frequently take stolen cars to the area and dispart them in the woods to avoid being caught. A cleanup effort in the early 1990s reported finding dozens of car tires, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, and old car engines.
In 1994, the Springfield Union News reported that the cleanup efforts had brought the park and tower back to its former glory. But, sadly in the year 2000, the same newspaper talked about the dumping problems returning and the tower once again being covered in graffiti. The dumping problem was actually catalyzed by Holyoke Parks director, Phillip A. Chesky. He was running a completely illegal solid waste dump within the park boundaries. Once he was caught, he removed the waste and lost his job.
Visiting Scott Tower Today
Over the years, vandals have frequented the tower and surrounding land. Sadly, the city of Holyoke has seemed to basically give up on maintaining the tower and trails leading to it. The main road is in pretty rough condition and it now is not drivable. Itstead, visitors must park at the base of the hill and then walk along the old access road. ATVs and motorcycles often sneak past the gate and drive on the old access road and through the trails.
The tower itself is open to the public, but it is in pretty rough condition. The base of the tower features crumbling stairways and overgrown patches of grass. As of 2023, the door to Scott Tower is open and visitors are allowed to walk up and down the stairway. It should be noted that going up and down the stairs is at your own risk. The tower has not been renovated in decades and it is crumbling. Getting up to the second floor observation area is pretty easy, but going up to the top of the tower is pretty unsafe. Many of the higher up stairs are completely gone or in rough shape. It is common for pieces of the stairs to fall when pressure is applied.
Overall, the tower is well worth checking out if you are a fan of abandoned places and urban exploring. It is truly a wonderful sight to see after the mile long hike up the hill. Hopefully the city of Holyoke will begin caring more about the tower and locals will respect it more.
Scott Tower Trail
- Trail Length: 0.74 miles (one-way)
- Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 177 feet
- Route Type: Out-and-back
- Dog Policy: Dogs are allowed on the trail, but must be on a leash.
- Year Built: 1942
- Year Abandoned: 2000
- Original Function: Stone observation tower for Anniversary Park in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Scott Tower Location
- Address: Scott Tower Road
- Town: Holyoke
- State: Massachusetts
- GPS: 42.212152, -72.637714
- Parking Notes: Visitors of Scott Tower can park at Community Field along Scott Tower Road. There is a large free parking area. This parking area has easy access to the trailhead to the tower.
- Parking Directions: HERE
- Location Directions: HERE