The 100th anniversary of the Mt. Battie Tower was commemorated Aug. 21 with the unveiling of a new history panel at the top of the mountain that tells the tower’s story.

The tower is a memorial to the soldiers of World War I and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thick fog did not deter representatives from Friends of Mt. Battie Tower, Camden Hills State Park, Coastal Mountains Land Trust and the State House of Representatives from taking the wrap off the new panel, or the steady stream of visitors from stopping by to look at it.

Representing the Friends group were Randy Stearns and Heather Moran, local history expert and reference and outreach archivist at Maine State Archives. The Friends group is all-volunteer and raises funds to restore and maintain the tower and keep the star atop the tower lit during the winter holiday season.

Camden Hills State Park Manager Charlene Sunshine Hood and Park Ranger Kevin Miller installed the panel and covered it in a tarp secured with duct tape to keep it under wraps until Aug. 21. Jim Britt, director of communications, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, drove up the coast from Portland to record the occasion for posterity.

State Representative for Camden, Islesboro and Rockport and member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,Vicki Doudera, joined the group to mark the tower’s 100th anniversary and the new installation. Leah Tronner, Coastal Mountains Land Trust’s new community engagement coordinator, the only person in the group to walk up to the tower, lent a hand in the unwrapping.

Unwrapping the new Mt. Battie Tower history panel, are, from left, Randy Stearns, State Representative Vicki Doudera, Charlene Sunshine Hood, Kevin Miller, Leah Tronner and Heather Moran. Susan Mustapich

The Friends are responsible for the creation of the panel, which draws from information and photographs available through the Camden Public Library Walsh History Center. The frame is made by Rockport Steel and the panel designed by Adventure Advertising, said Stearns, who joked that his role is paying the bills.

Hood, who took over as manager in March 2020, and Miller talked about how last year was the busiest on record in the park’s history, due to the pandemic and the governor’s encouragement of outdoor activity. This year, visits to Camden Hills State Park have topped the 2020 record, Hood said. She was brimming with enthusiasm about celebrating the tower’s anniversary 100 years to the day it was officially dedicated to the servicemen and women of WW I.

Hood also has lots of plans in the works for Camden Hills State Park, including creating a new nature center in a building situated across from the visitor’s greeting and check-in gate.

From left, Heather Moran and Randy Stearns are members of the Friends of Mt. Battie Tower, a local volunteer group responsible for the new history panel, as well as fundraising for the maintenance of the tower. Susan Mustapich

Recent tower history

In December 2014, the Friends of the Mt. Battie Tower began a fundraising campaign to repairs deterioration of the tower and create a maintenance fund.

Large gifts of $10,000 gift from the Messler Family Foundation and $25,000 from an anonymous donor jumpstarted the campaign. Donations came in from community members from near and far and the state donated $10,000 to assist the project.

In March 2016, the Friends presented a check for more than $67,000 to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry for the restoration work. In October 2016, the Friends announced completion of the restoration work, which was done by Tito Masonry of Portland.

In December 2018, the Mt. Battie Tower was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, through the efforts of the Camden Historic Resources Committee with the assistance of Maine Historic Preservation Commission, cooperation of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry and Camden Hills State Park.

The Tower was constructed from the stone foundation of the Mt. Battie House in 1920, and in August 1921 was dedicated as a memorial to WW I service men and women. It was also designed as a viewing platform atop Mt. Battie, and this is how it became eligible for listing in the National Register under criterion for recreation and entertainment.

Designation on the National Register indicates the property has been documented, evaluated, and considered worthy of preservation and protection as part of the nation’s cultural heritage.

The auto road up Mount Battie to the Tower was constructed by the Maine State Park Commission in 1963. Each year since 1966, the Mt. Battie community star has been lit nightly from Thanksgiving evening through New Year’s Eve, made possible by local donations of supplies and volunteer labor.

Visitors to the top of Camden’s Mt. Battie can now learn about the history of the popular Mt. Battie Tower.