When this observation station was established in April 1910, no tower was immediately erected, as an unobstructed view was available due to the lack of tree cover on the mountaintop.Five letters that provide some insight into the establishment of this station date back to 2/24/1910, 3/15/1910, 3/17/1910, 6/28/1916 and in 7/3/1916. During this first year of use three miles of telephone line were constructed so that the observer could quickly report fires spotted to the local forest ranger. There is no evidence that a tower was ever built on St. Regis until 1918, when the Conservation Commission erected a 35' Aermotor LS40 steel tower that still remains there today.
The significance of New York State forest fire observation stations, in general, and of St. Regis Mountain station was the preservation of the States wild forests and to protect them against devastating fires. During the early 1900’s the forests of the Adirondacks had been plagued by fires with the most damaging fires occurring in 1903 and 1908. The fires in 1903 destroyed over 464,180 acres of NYS land. The fires of 1908 destroyed over 368,000 acres of NYS land. Below are four photos from 1908 taken after a fire on St. Regis Mountain.
St. Regis Mountain Fire Photo from 1908 Photo 1 of 4
St. Regis Mountain Fire Photo from 1908 Photo 2 of 4
St. Regis Mountain Fire Photo from 1908 Photo 3 of 4
St. Regis Mountain Fire Photo from 1908 Photo 4 of 4
Below is a Fire Prevention Poster from 1914
1914 NYS Fire Prevention Poster
In 1919, a "device known as the Osborne Fire Finder has been developed by the US Forest Service. By means of this instrument a panoramic map of the territory visible from a mountain station could be developed. This made it possible for an inexperienced observer to locate fires more accurately than with ordinary topographic maps. One of the new fire finders was purchased and tried out at Poke-O-Moonshine during the year and a map made" according to the Conservation Commission.
"Kinne F. Williams, a state forester, demonstrating the operation of an alidade on a table adopted for use in fire observation towers, in conjunction with a United States Geological Survey map. An alidade is a surveying/mapping instrument used for determining directions."
The Panoramic Map Used On St. Regis Mt. - ca. 1919
Because of the cramped conditions in these earlier cabins, a new design was adopted in 1936. It increased the size to 16' x 20' with a 7' porch. These had waney edge pine siding, pine board interior and a large fire place. A cabin of this design was completed by the members of the CCC Camp at Barnum Pond in 1939 and is pictured below.
St. Regis observer's cabin - 1973
The original two-way radio used on St. Regis - ca. 1940
St. Regis Tower and Observer Leander Martin - 1940
St. Regis Observer Leander Martin - 1940
St. Regis Observer Ed Samburgh - 1974
In 1990, the last of the operating fire towers in New York State, of which St. Regis was one, were closed. This brought to an end an era or organized and systematic forest fire detection that lasted 82 years.
The St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower appears on the National Historic Lookout Register being placed there in March 2005.