coast defense

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Point Allerton Tall Fire Control Tower

This 7-story tower is perhaps the most impressive asset in the entire Boston Harbor Defense fire control system. It survives in almost mint condition in the back yard of a private residence, is visible throughout the town of Hull, and offers Boston's most breathtaking view of the harbor.

The top three stories of this tower were used for observation, and each was equipped with a DPF (Depression Position Finder) spotting instrument. The top-story instrument, at 179 feet, controlled fire for Battery Murphy, the 16-inch guns in Nahant. This was the highest elevation of any observation instrument in the Boston Harbor defenses. Next came the 6th story, at 171 feet (still higher than other Boston stations) which controlled Battery Jewell, the 6-inch guns on nearby Outer Brewster Island. Then came the fith story, at 163 feet, which controlled fire for Battery 207, the 6-inch guns (not installed until after WW2) Fort Dawes, on the other side of the harbor entrance.

The current owner, who has lived in the nearby house for more than 10 years, was kind enough to let me visit the tower, including its roof. The most remarkable feature inside is the survival of the hexagonal concrete pads that were used on the top three levels to mount the observation instruments.

A reinforced concrete "crow's nest" (sort of a concrete "bucket") was tucked into the back of the 7th story. This held the anti-aircraft observer ( AAIS-OP-7), who reached his post by climbing a very small ladder to the crow's nest and opened a trapdoor in the roof to raise his head and shoulders above roof level. The railing that now surrounds the roof would have been no obsruction to his view, since this was added by the current owner to make the roof safer to occupy.

The tower had a chamfered design, called "ornimental"by the Army Engineers, which was unique in the Boston harbor fire control network: the corners of the top two stories of the tower were carved away to give them a hexagononal plan. It is doubtful that this design flair did anything to "camouflage" the tower. Local rumor has it that an underground passage ran from the tower easterly toward the lower fire control buildings nearer the sea, but there is no evidence on the plans for this.

Piping for the boiler that used to heat the tower is evident on the 1st floor, but the heating system has now been removed. The original electrical wiring has also been replaced with modern circuitry.

Another unusual feature is the survival of the geodetic disk (MY4604) that was emplaced in the concrete roof to mark the precise latitude and longitude of the center of the pintles of the DPF instruments on the top three stories. Usually, these disks get covered with tar or roofing materials or, in the more remote towers, have been pried loose by marauders.

A second geodetic disk (MY0126), one of the iron variety used during the WW2 years as a way of conserving scarce brass, is also located at the tower, emplaced on the southerly end of the step up to the tower door.

A third marker (MY4601), a drill hole in a concrete pillar set in 1940, probably as part of the initial surveys that preceeded the construction of the tower, is located about 1,000 ft.farther to the north, out on the tip of the Point, about 10 ft. from the drop off from the lawns of the houses there to the seawall below that protects the bluff.

Tower Photos and Views

  • From 1000 Ft South
    This image was taken from the Nantasket peninsula, about a quarter mile south of the tower. (PG 2010)
  • Front Looking NE
    This image shows the unique design of this tower, in which walls of the the top two levels were chamfered into an octagonal shape. The railing around the roof is not original, but was added by the present owner a few years ago to make the rooftop more usable. (PG 2010)
  • Seaside Farther
    This view is in the opposite direction from that in Slide 2. (PG 2010)
  • Seaside Look SW
    (PG 2010)
  • View Northwesterly
    This magnificant view shows Ft. Warren on George's Island to the right, with the Boston skyline in the distance. Long Island at at the center, with its causeway to the left. At the extreme left are some of the residential neighborhoods now surrounding Ft. Revere. (PG 2010)
  • Coast South
    This view looks south across the wide sweep of coastline visible from the tower. At the lower right-hand corner is a bit Nantasket Beach. The red dot at the upper left was added to mark the tall fire control tower that stands at the center of Strawberry Point, some six miles away and clearly visible from Pt. Allerton. (PG 2010)
  • Bty Long Frm Tower
    This photo looks southwesterly from the tower roof toward Hog Island, renamed Spinnaker Island when its 16-inch gun battery was buried under condominiums. Qincy is in the background. One of the huge gun positions is visible beneath the condos at the right end of the island. (PG 2010)
  • The Brewsters
    This photo looks northerly from the tower's roof. Boston Light on Little Brewster Island is about 1.3 miles distant. Great Brewster Isl. is to its left, Middle Brewster is beyond and Outer Brewster is the somewhat more massive island at the extreme right, behind the less prominent Shag Rocks. During WW2, Outer Brewster was the site of Battery Jewell, the most seaward of the harbor gun emplacements, with two 6-inch guns. (PG 2010)
  • Ladder To Roof
    This addition, by the tower's current owner, enables safe, watertight access to the roof. To emplace the gangway, the reinforced concrete "crow's nest for the anti-aircraft observer had its side and bottom removed (note the jackhammered edges). Formerly there was only a small ladder and a scuttle from there to the roof. (PG 2010)
  • 7 Down To 6
    This gangway, of pressure-treated wood, is a modern replacement for the wartime verical ladder. The cast iron pipe railings on the 7th story are original. (PG 2010)
  • 6th Floor
    In this view, wooden replacement windows (obscured by the sun) line the observation slit on the northern and eastern (seaward) sides of the 6th story. The octagonal concrete pad with its three mounting bolts formerly held the Depression Position Finder (DPF) on this level, and the center of this pad, projected to the roof, is marked by a geodectic disk (see 2nd photo gallery below) to locate it precisely for fire control. It is rare to find these pads surviving, since they are usually smoothed away by the new owner to make the space more usable. The electrical service is a modern replacement, in PVC pipe, but the iron bar railing is original. (PG 2010)