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Residents vote to restore Hull’s Fort Revere Tower

The Fort Revere Tower on Telegraph Hill was first built in 1903.Kleinfelder

Fort Revere Tower on Telegraph Hill at the far end of Hull will get a $2.2 million makeover, thanks to a Town Meeting vote on May 2.

The town-owned tower has been closed for safety reasons for the last decade. The money the town is borrowing — which will not trigger a property tax hike — would go toward restoring the historic concrete structure both inside and out, with the goal of reopening it to the public, officials said.

The 120-foot tower was the first reinforced concrete water tower in the United States and was built to store water and serve as both a lookout platform and base for a navigational light.

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The tower is on the site of Fort Revere Park, an 8-acre property owned primarily by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Hull has tried unsuccessfully over the years to have the state assume control of the structure.

Opponents of the plan for the town to rehabilitate the tower questioned whether it was a good use of town money, and wondered why the state didn’t help pay the cost.

“DCR is not going to come to the rescue,” Town Manager Philip Lemnios told Town Meeting. The tower “is a town of Hull property and the town of Hull’s responsibility. It is ours; it is iconic. There is always something else we could be spending money on, but [the tower] is not going to repair itself, and it will only cost more to repair a year from now … If we don’t repair it, it’s going to fall into itself.”

Fort Revere Park, which has a panoramic view of Boston Harbor and the Hull peninsula, also includes two seacoast fortifications and an “Officer Quarters Museum” that is closed because of structural problems with the building.

According to a history posted in a display at the park, the spot was first considered for military use in the 1630s but was passed over in favor of Castle Island. Later in the 1600s, beacons were placed on the hill to warn of potential Dutch and French naval attacks, the history said.

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The first fort was built there in 1776 to defend the port of Boston, and another in the 1800s remained in service on and off until the end of World War II, according to the history.

In 1827, the first telegraph tower went up, consisting of a mast with painted paddles. Eventually, several telegraph stations operated on what became known as Telegraph Hill, announcing arrival of ships in Boston Harbor. The last tower was demolished by 1938, made obsolete by the arrival of ship-to-shore radio communications, according to the history.

In 1903,the federal government built the current water tower, using reinforced concrete in what was then a new construction technique.

The tower was restored in 1975 and again in 1990. The observation deck opened to the public in 1975 and, according to Lemnios, was last open on a regular basis and staffed by volunteers in the summer of 2011.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.