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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Retreat Tower Questions

I took my young sons up to the Retreat Tower this past Tuesday -- it was their first visit.  I've never been inside, but have heard that it is opened to the public now & then.  Does anyone know if there are fixed dates that it's open, or where one can find out when it will be open?  The boys are dying to have a look inside and climb to the top for a view of the area.

They also asked me about the long brick building with metal roof that is visible from the Tower Climb trail -- does anyone know what that building is/was?  It's boarded up now, and appears to be 90ish years old in my estimation.


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Tower Tour

We had heard that rumor as well, that the Tower was opened once a year for visitors.

One day, while walking through the woods we bumped into another hiker who said that the tower was open. I got my video camera and we raced over, hoping not to miss it.

When we got there, the door was indeed open, so we went in. This was the video:


We posted it on the site for others to enjoy. Folks at the Retreat saw it and realized something wasn't quite right. Someone had been there but had left the door open by mistake. No one was supposed to be wandering in, and it wasn't open to the public.

We asked them what day it was that the tower would be open to the public, and were told it was just a rumor. Public tours of the Retreat Tower don't happen.


They used to happen

Just not in recent years. Liability concerns was one reason I heard.


contact info for the Tower?

Do you remember with whom you spoke regarding the tower? I would also love to know if it is ever opened. My daughter has just written a short film script and plans on filming around the exterior of the Tower next spring for the heroic "Rapunzel-esque" climb, sans hair (and no actual climbing! Green-screen effects all the way...). If there was any possible chance of being allowed in for some filming from the top, in order to complete the video magic, I think she could actually swoon!


One community's work-around

In Worcester, Mass. there's a big stone structure called "Bancroft Tower" that had been locked up for most of the past 20 years. This year, two private civic groups arranged to provide "docents" (to keep things safe) so that the tower could be opened for four hours each Sunday in October. Here's a link to a newspaper article about it:

I wonder if there's a civic group in Brattleboro that could offer to supervise a couple of brief openings of the Retreat Tower on behalf of the Retreat?


The other building

I'm sure others have more details than I do…

The other building is part of Crowell's reservoir system. It was a pump house to help move water between the Retreat and Crowell's reservoir. (It looks like a place to film a good horror movie, to me.)

Crowell was, among other things, a developer. He created many of the homes in the Forest Square area, and reservoirs to help get water to them (and to help the town fight fires). I was just reading about another reservoir he had near the north east corner of Forest Square - which is the corner of Western and Cedar.

So, there were pipes connecting the reservoir at the top of Chestnut Hill (formerly Highland Park) to the mystery pump house building, then on down to the meadows, and quite possibly others coming down the other side toward Cedar street.


Better info

Crowell's pump was elsewhere, I've learned. Here is DPW's Gary King's more accurate information.

"Here is a Photo

The Spring House is a covered reservoir holding spring water from springs on the retreat property somewhere above. Actually two compartments in the house so one can be off line for cleaning or maint.
This was the drinking water for the Retreat complex until quite late, all gravity feed. I think the last buildings to come off the springs was the row of houses owned by the Retreat along Linden Street in 1991.

National Register Nomination Information: http://www.crjc.org/heritage/V02-34.htm

(14) Springhouse (1885)
This one-story rectangular block is to the west of and overlooks Linden Lodge (2). Most of the block is enclosed under a steep hip roof which sweeps down nearly to ground level. Its windowless low side walls are sheathed in stretcher bond red brick except for the rear (south) and part of the west facades, which are concrete with concrete molded cornices. The single bay main (north) facade has an entrance, reached by an iron ladder, through a raised brick round-arched opening, with brick imposts and stone sill, in the face of a brick flush-wall hipped dormer, with pressed metal roof and cheeks. The patterned, pressed metal, steeply hipped roof rises above a denticulated brick cornice matching that of the Main Building (1). The east and west two-bay eaves facades each have two matching dormers. The dormer in the rear of the west facade, however, is completely sheathed in pressed metal. All dormer openings are blocked and sealed with expanded metal grates. Square louvered cupolas, with flared pyramidal pressed metal roofs and finials, cap the roof at either end of the ridge. Now hidden by foliage, it was originally a cistern reservoir, which was enlarged and covered in 1885, acquiring its present appearance.

I don’t believe Crowell had anything to do with this.
The pump to add water to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir was along the West River somewhere opposite the Marina Rest.

Gary King


Old building geekery

Chris, thanks for all the homework on that building! The architectural descriptions of it are exquisite. Now I'd love a peek in there as well as the tower!

I just visited Worcester's Bancroft Tower this past weekend, which was locked up for decades but opened through negotiations by two local civic groups. I wonder which Brattleboro groups might be interested in approaching the Retreat for a similar brief opening of the Retreat Tower (and maybe that spring/pump house)?

Here's a nice article about Bancroft Tower with a cool aerial photo:


I like the old buildings, too

Thank Gary, though, for the building info….


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