The "Observatory" at Valley Forge
Q.Many years ago, I grew up across the Schuylkill river from Valley Forge. There was even a road I lived near called "Chapel View Lane" which I later found out was so appropriately named because I recall as I road my bike down it and looked up, I saw a perfect view of the Washington Memorial Chapel. I still remember its bells ringing out beautiful hymns. I visited Valley Forge often then back when it was a state park. The reason I am writing is to find out some information. When I visited the park, I used to climb a tall tower of which at the top would behold a spectacular view. I could even see the house I grew up in. We used to count the steps all the way up. I recently made a trip to the now National Park and besides noticing how greatly it has changed, I also could not find that tower. Do you have any information on that tower? Who built it? When? Why? Is it still there? Thank-you.
Michael Ehnot, Connecticut
A.The "Observatory" at Valley Forge was built sometime in the 1920's...a feature put in by the Valley Forge State Park Commission, who was running the park at the time. According to the Founder of the Valley Forge Historical Society, Dr. Burk, in his "Valley Forge Guide" the information regarding the tower is mentioned as follows: (this is from the 1928 edition of the guide) "The Observatory. — The Park Commission has won the gratitude of visitors to Valley Forge by the erection of the Mount Joy Observatory, whose platform is 500 feet above the sea lever. From this vantage point there is a magnificent view of the surrounding country. To aid visitors to the appreciation of the strategic value of the site selected by Washington and his generals, a cast-iron plate has been placed on the platform, giving the direction and distance of each important place in the vicinity of Valley Forge." Unfortunately, due to the age of the tower and the expense of upkeep, not to mention the liabilities of such a structure, the Tower was torn down in the 1980's.
NOTE: According to Larry from Telford, PA, "The tower at Valley Forge has been refurbished and put back together overlooking the Grand Canyon of PA near Wellsboro just outside the Leonard Harrison State Park."