265, New York 20
Essex County, New York
Coordinates: N44.401755 W73.512904
Administrative Unit: NYSDEC Region 5
Cooperators: NYSDEC Region 5, Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine and Adirondack
To Topographical Map
The mountain probably got its name from a “bag of corn whiskey” that
some traveler found stashed there many years ago. Another and
likely possibility is that the name was derived from the Algonquin name for
the hill: Pohqui moosie. Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower
was first used as a lookout site in 1912. The 35’ Aermotor LS-40 tower with 7’x7’
metal cab was constructed 81 years ago in 1917. A popular hiking destination
in the Adirondack Park, it was deactivated in 1988 and considered for removal.
In 1997 the Town of Chesterfield passed a resolution supporting renovation of
the tower. The Adirondack Heritage and the Adirondack Mountain Club joined in
a Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine tower project.
Additional information and photos courtesy of Bill Starr, NHLR State
"In 1918 Forest Fire Control tested the ”Osborne Fire Finder” in this
fire tower. With the fire finder immediately proving it’s worth the bureau
began making “Panoramic Circular Maps” with the plotting instrument on the
fire finder for each of the fire towers. A simplified version of the
“Osborne” was developed and installed at each fire tower beginning in 1919.
This tower has been fully restored and is open to the public. The tower is
listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the National
Historic Lookout Register.
"As the initial group of Forest Fire Observers were retiring, or leaving to
other jobs the need to attract quality candidates for the position was a
priority. One concern was the quality of living quarters at the fire towers.
In the early 1930s work began to improve these sites by first placing
additions on some cabins, or constructing new outbuildings. Then later in
the 1930s the Bureau took advantage of having the Civilian Conservation
Corps (C.C.C.) to build more elaborate cabins, and to provide the funding on
many of these jobs. As work was scarce during the “Great Depression” many
skilled tradesmen were among the participants at the various C.C.C. camps.
"What I call the ‘Model 1936’ cabin was developed and placed into service
that year. Six were built at Azure, De Bar, Makomis, Poke-O-Moonshine, Rock
Rift and Stissing mountains. The blue prints call for a stone fireplace on
the front wall of the cabin. Yet from very recent photographic research not
all these cabins were constructed with the stone fireplace.
"Accessibility to material and even to a skilled stone mason was essential.
At Azure, De Bar and Poke-O-Moonshine mountains road access to the cabin
sites was available, and a stone mason must have been at one of the nearest
C.C.C. camps because these three locations all had their ‘Model 1936’ cabins
built with a stone fire place. The only other cabin with a stone fire place
was at St. Regis Mountain where this cabin was built in 1939. Two stone
chimneys existed on this cabin, the main fireplace in front and a smaller
chimney in the rear left corner of the cabin at the pantry, no doubt for a
wood burning cook stove.
"Many misconceptions exist about the map table and circular map and I
hope to clear them up here.
"In 1918 the Bureau of Forest Fire Control obtained a Model 1917 “Osborne
Fire Finder” that was in use by the U.S. Forest Service. This device was
placed in the Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain fire tower to test the effectiveness
of the instrument. Almost immediately the Osborne proved that having such
device would greatly extend the ability of the Forest Fire Observer in
accurately pinpointing a fire location.
Osborne Fire Finder Plotting instrument on the 1917 Osborne Fire
Finder (Paul Hartmann photos)
"The “Osborne” not only was a heavy device to be lugging up and down a
mountain, or fire tower, it was expensive too. Even today a current model of
the “Osborne” is selling upwards of $4,000 each.
"With the plotting instrument on the 1917 Osborne maps were made for each of
the fire towers. These maps were only 19 and then 24 inches in diameter and
utilized a topographical map in the center. On the perimeter of the
topographic map the physical land features, visible from a fire tower, were
plotted on the map by use of the plotting instrument.
"First described in the 1919 Annual Report to the Legislature, maps were
being made for each tower, about six to ten per year. This was a laborious
job, toting the one Osborne from fire tower to fire tower, setting it up and
then plotting each physical land feature one by one.
"These first circular maps were called “Panorama Maps” and the following
illustration was pictured in the 1919 Annual Report to the Legislature.
Map for Saint Regis Mountain 1919. NYS-DEC Photo.
Of course a table had to be provided to support this map. Made of iron
plumbing pipes a table with a fixed circular top, 30” in diameter were made
for each fire tower as “Panorama Maps” were being made.
2003--Restoration (NYS-DEC photo)
Summer 2001 flyover (Marty Podskoch photo)
1936 Cabin and Model 1922 on right (Bob Eckler photo)
Corrections or Additions? Contact
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