On the streets of North Adams and Adams, you may look up to the summit of Mt. Greylock and wonder why there is a lighthouse on the top. You are not alone. Residents of the surrounding towns asked that same question in the 1930s when what is actually the Mt. Greylock War Monument was first built.
The War Monument has had a long and difficult past, including being condemned and rebuilt. In the beginning, there were debates about who would fund it, who would build it, and where it would sit. Before deciding on Mt. Greylock, a monument was almost built close to Boston, and an island was even suggested in the Charles River! But as we can see today, the monument that sits atop the mountain is ultimately what was chosen.
The monument was initially completed in 1932 and finally dedicated the following summer. During the dedication, people recall an eerie fog rolling through, which created beads of condensation that resembled bleeding as if symbolically honoring the men and women who had given their lives in war. And that night, the beacon was turned on for the first time and the light still casts a ray today, perhaps the only original aspect of the monument.
As early as that winter, the monument already began having complications mostly due to the harsh weather conditions on the mountain. While an effort was put into the monument’s upkeep and continuing repairs tried to fix damage caused by weather, unfortunately, by the 1960s the monument was condemned and ultimately taken down. This led to more debates about what would replace the now nonexistent monument. One proposal was Leonard P. Baskin’s “The Mourning Woman.” Interestingly enough, a newspaper accidentally printed the wrong photo and people thought the abstract sculpture was Baskin’s proposal. This led to his idea being thrown away, and the monument rebuild was back at square one. Citizens rallied behind building a new monument and finally, the proposal went through and in 1975 the monument was rededicated.
Unfortunately, in the more than forty-five years since, the elements that once brought the monument to condemnation are still battering the monument. In 2013, it was closed for repairs totaling $2.5 million. The inside of the monument was closed off to the public for almost four years until in 2017 when the monument was reopened. Today it is open to the public and anyone comfortable in tight spaces can make their way up the stairs to the top of the monument. In August of 2018, the Mt. Greylock Veterans Memorial was named an official 100 World War One Centennial Memorial in lieu of the one hundred year anniversary of the end of WWI. Residents of Adams and other surrounding towns can now see the beacon shining on any clear night, and hopefully for many more years.
Through the Greylock Veterans’ War Monument’s many trials and tribulations, it eerily represents war perfectly starting with the “bleeding” on the day of its first dedication. The ups and downs of its structure represent the difficulties of the effects of war on veterans. As one newspaper stated, the fact that this much effort and funding has gone into building the monument just so the monument could one day crumble and fall is “a further testament to the futility of war.”