The fire tower on top of Kent’s own Mount Nimham, itself more than 1200 feet high, stands 90 feet above the mountain top making it the tallest existing fire tower in New York State. While Mount Nimham is not the tallest peak in our County (that honor goes to Bull Hill, sometimes known as Mount Taurus, in Philipstown) the view from the fire tower is all-encompassing, taking in NYC to the south through to the Berkshires and the Catskills 75 miles away.
Great fires in the early 1900s destroyed millions of acres of forest in New York, leading to the creation of state fire districts. Fire towers were erected on mountains in these districts from which spotters could quickly locate potentially dangerous fires sparked by railroad locomotives, careless hunters or residents burning brush.
Located in the Taconic Hills about 60 miles north of New York City and in the heart of Putnam County, the Mount Nimham fire tower was built by the State of New York and the CCC in 1940. The 90 foot International Derrick and Equipment Company fire tower with a 7′ x 7′ metal cab is located on state forestland. The Mount Nimham fire tower is listed with the National Historic Lookout Register.
Although not used for fire detection in many years, the fire tower site was maintained as a radio repeater site for Putnam County Emergency Services. A new communications tower for these services now stands nearby.
In the mid-1990s, the Town of Kent’s Conservation Advisory Committee (KCAC) and PLAN Kent, a group of interested citizens, met to discuss the deteriorating condition of the steel fire tower in the hope of organizing a restoration.
The Friends of Mount Nimham was formed at that meeting, and, with the endorsement of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), was granted stewardship of this historic fire tower.
In 2006, after many years of dedicated effort, the volunteers of the Friends of Mount Nimham completed the fire tower restoration and today the fire tower again offers majestic views of the area. On a clear day you can see south to New York City, west to the Catskills and north to the Taconics and Berkshire foothills. Also visible in this scenic panorama are Poughkeepsie, Beacon, the entire Croton River watershed, all of Putnam County and parts of Connecticut. In the distance to the west, the Shawangunks, Marlboro Hills and Harriman State Park form a virtually unbroken line of impressive heights and preserved recreational open spaces.
Currently, the Kent CAC maintains the fire tower under a stewardship agreement with the NYSDEC.