Lumber Heritage Region Mini Grant helps McKean County Historical Society preserve a fire tower for visitors. - Lumber Heritage Region

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Lumber Heritage Region Mini Grant helps McKean County Historical Society preserve a fire tower for visitors.

Written by Jswatsworth

Lumber Heritage Region Mini Grant helps McKean County Historical Society preserve a fire tower for visitors.

After serving for 49 years in fire detection and forest preservation efforts, a portion of the iconic Prospect Hill Fire Tower is now on display at the McKean County Historical Society, welcoming visitors to experience its rich history. This milestone marks the successful realization of two phases in a four-phase project, achieved through years of dedicated planning and fundraising efforts. The Lumber Heritage Region in administration of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources provided a $5,000 grant towards phase two and has dedicated $5,000 to phase three of the project.

Bart Barton and Lu Vandermark, esteemed members of the McKean County Historical Society, have played pivotal roles in preserving the tower’s top section, transforming it into an engaging educational and tourist attraction. A poignant reminder of its past, a photojournalist captured the panoramic views that fire wardens once relied on for nearly five decades before the tower’s dismantling. Bart, President of the Society, noted, “The museum is very happy that we have received this grant for Phase III of the Fire Tower Project.  This should allow us to finish most of the restoration with volunteer help.  Anyone who would like to be a part of the restoration can call the museum at 814-887-5142”

Strategically situated on one of the region’s highest peaks, the Prospect Fire Tower was instrumental in identifying and preventing the spread of fires, supporting McKean County’s economy through contributions from sawmills, loggers, and timber structures. Preserving these forests has been essential in sustaining the local ecosystem, economy, and livelihoods over the years.

Operating from its location behind the McKean County Courthouse in Smethport, the Old Jail Museum managed by the McKean County Historical Society stands as a beacon of heritage and education. Recognized as part of the PA Department of Health WalkWorks Historic Walking Tour, the museum’s presence alongside Route 6 attracts a diverse range of visitors, both local and international. Its extensive collection of artifacts and documents provides invaluable resources for historical research.

Holly Komonczi, Executive Director of the Lumber Heritage Region, emphasizes the significance of bridging history and outdoor recreation through projects like the Prospect Hill Fire Tower. She notes, “Fire towers are integral to Pennsylvania’s history, and this restored tower offers a captivating visual journey for all museum visitors. The Lumber Heritage Region takes pride in supporting local initiatives that uphold the legacy of the forest products industry.”

For those eager to explore this historical gem, the Old Jail Museum at 500 West Main Street in Smethport, PA, welcomes visitors seasonally during April, May, September, and October on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 pm, and during June, July, and August, Tuesday to Saturday from 1 to 4 pm.

Pictured:  Bart Barton, Holly Komonczi, Commissioner Mary Ann “Marty” Wilder

Representative Marty Causer, Commissioner Tom Kreiner, Commissioner Carol Duffy, Lu Vandermark

About the Lumber Heritage Region

The Lumber Heritage Region is dedicated to preserving, promoting, and celebrating the rich history and heritage of the lumber industry in Pennsylvania. Established in 2001, the organization works tirelessly to educate the public about the contributions of the lumber industry to the region’s development.