0113 crawford fire tower
Hoover Historical Society President Delores Wilkinson, joined by Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey, cuts the ribbon dedicating the restored Crawford Fire Tower Cab on Patton Chapel Road.
For the better part of the 20th century, the intersection of Shades Crest and Farley Roads in Bluff Park was marked with the Crawford Fire Tower, its skeleton metal frame stretching high above the pines as a monument to methods of the past. The tower isn’t there anymore, torn down and misplaced in 1992 after 63 years on the job, but the cab was removed and hidden on city property.
Hidden until last year, that is.
On Oct. 31, the Hoover Historical Society dedicated the restored Crawford Fire Tower Cab at its new location on Patton Chapel Road across from Hoover Fire Station No. 2. The ceremony marked the conclusion to a project that began in May 2011, completed by a partnership between the Historical Society and the City of Hoover.
“The wonderful city of Hoover – and let me say I love Hoover and our wonderful elected officials – they too have an interest in our interests,” Society President Delores Wilkinson said.
The project began last year, Wilkinson said, when a member of the Hoover Fire Department found the tower cab on the lot at Fire Station No. 4 on Municipal Drive. He encouraged the Society to restore it and, from there, the Project Fire Tower Committee was formed. It was chaired by Jim Lyons.
Lyons said while the committee delved into the tower’s history, more than 20 Hoover Public Works employees took the lead on reconditioning the cab and preparing the site, doing much of the work in their time off.
“It was a heck of a job,” he said. “The city has some real experts on reconditioning stuff. It took skilled people because parts had to be welded back together, and it’s quite an ordeal to do that. But I think the thing looks better now than when it was new.”
Before the information age, fire towers were a vital part of the emergency service information chain. Workers, or “lookouts,” would spend long hours in the cab waiting for traces of smoke to appear, then relay the location of the fire to suppression personnel on the ground.
So, after completing its research, the committee stocked the Crawford cab with historically accurate items like a kerosene heater, a circular map, a crank telephone and a wooden stool – which was used by lookouts to protect them from lightning strikes.
“If you get out of car and walk up to the cab, you’ll see its history in there,” Wilkinson said. “Ours is one of only a few in the United States that has been totally and historically done correctly.”
The site on Patton Chapel Road also includes a historic marker for those interested in learning more about the tower.
“I think it was a great project that let us restore piece of history from the Bluff Park area,” Lyons said. “There was good teamwork between the City of Hoover and the Historical Society to make this happen for future generations that may never even hear of a fire tower.”
To learn more about the tower, visit hooverhistoricalsociety.org.