Digest>Archives> April 2004

Mt. Greylock: The lighthouse that never was

By Timothy Harrison


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The Mt. Greylock War Memorial was actually built ...
Photo by: Paula M. Silvestri

WWell over 100 miles from the sea, located in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, near the community of Lanesborough, is the Mt. Greylock State Reservation. home to the Mt. Greylock War Memorial that many have claimed was originally built as a lighthouse. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Mt. Greylock War Memorial is just that, a memorial; it was built, planned, and designed to be a memorial to those who gave of their lives in World War I. Talk of building the memorial started almost as soon as the war was over.

However at the time the Mt. Greylock War Memorial was first proposed, World War 1 was only known as the Great War, since no other wars of such magnitude had been fought up to then in modern times. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, on June 28, 1914, plunged most of the major powers of the world into war almost at once. In fact the very day of the assassination, Austria-Hungry declared war on Serbia and within a matter of few days Germany declared war on Russia and France and invaded Luxembourg and Belgium. By August 4, Great Britain declared war on Germany, Austria declared war on Russia, and Great Britain and France declared war on Austria-Hungry.

But it wasn’t until 1917 that the United States entered the war declaring war on Germany and Austria-Hungry. Strong antiwar sentiments had hampered our nations efforts to properly prepare for the war. However, the sinking of American ships by German submarines and the revelation that Germany was trying to convince Mexico to declare war on the United States changed all that. Because of poor readiness, many of our troops went oversees before receiving adequate training.

The war was devastating to the armies of the world. Both sides saw a total of over eight million soldiers killed and over 21 million were wounded. In comparison to other countries such as France who suffered 1,300,00 killed and over four million wounded, and Great Britain who lost nearly a million soldiers and suffered two million wounded, the United States suffered 126,000 soldiers killed and 234,000 wounded.

Out of a combined military of all nations there were a total of over 65 million troops mobilized and over 57% of those became casualties with Russia and Germany suffering the most.

The United States had not seen such casualties since the Civil War, and this was the first major war were we had sent troops overseas to fight. Despite controversy, the powers that be in Massachusetts were going to build a memorial.

Construction of the Mt. Greylock Memorial began in 1931, and the structure has been plagued by problems ever since. Because of water and ice damage caused by the elements, the structure has always suffered and, at one point, was closed for over a decade because of falling bricks. In the 1970’s, it was nearly literally rebuilt, and in 1997, it received a major $1 million makeover. But, no matter what, the massive and impressive structure still stands atop a mountain in Massachusetts.

However, the rumors that claim the Mt. Greylock Memorial was actually designed and built as a lighthouse for the Boston area will never go away. Stories claim that a lighthouse was built for the Charles River, a project that eventually was decided as not being needed. So, as some rumors have it, the structure was then moved brick by brick from Boston to the mountain to be used as a memorial. There is no proof anywhere that this is true. But, as with much of our nation’s folklore and legends, it seems to have turned into fact.

Although the idea of the memorial took its roots out of the Great War, the memorial is actually dedicated to those from Massachusetts who sacrificed in all wars.

As time goes on we seem to forget more and more of our history as only small portions of it are taught in our nation’s schools. Even the history of the Mt. Greylock Memorial is shrouded in mystery, with many of the true facts, as with much of our lighthouse history, having disappeared into the dusty pages of time.

The commissioning of the Harbour Lights replica by Lighthouse Depot was an effort to keep alive some of the forgotten parts of our nation’s great history and the sacrifices made by so few for so many. We must never forget. We must keep all of our history alive for future generations, because a nation that loses its history will surely be a nation that is lost.

The lighted, limited edition

Harbour Lights replica of the

Mt. Greylock War Memorial is only available from Lighthouse Depot

as item #42903 for $64.95 by calling

1-800-758-1444 or on line at


This story appeared in the April 2004 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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