Save the Tower effort seeks to open WWII tower to public

Date Published: 
December 27, 2013

Those who are unfamiliar with Delaware history may not take a second glance at the towers that scatter the coastline. The 13 towers — 11 in Delaware and two in New Jersey — were built as artillery spotting locations during World War II.

Coastal Point • File Photo: Members of the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation stand in front of one of the World War II?towers used to spot enemy vessels.Coastal Point • File Photo: Members of the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation stand in front of one of the World War II?towers used to spot enemy vessels.“There are a series of towers up and down the coast of Delaware, and their purpose was to triangulate the firepower,” explained Shirley Price, who co-chairs the group Save the Tower. “The big guns were up at Cape Henlopen, so if there was an enemy sub or ship seen, they would send where it was sighted up to Cape Henlopen, and the big guns there would know where to fire.”

Save the Tower is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization comprising the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation and the Fort Miles Historical Association. Currently, they are working together to raise $500,000 in order to restore World War II Fire Tower No. 3, located next to Delaware Seashore State Park near Dewey Beach.

“When we were talking about projects that we thought would be positive for the community,” said Price. “The towers that sit out there are such an eye-catching thing. Most people don’t know what they’re for or how they came to be.”

But the groups wanted to go a step beyond simply preserving the historical structures.

“We decided we would try to pursue opening it up and restoring it to its original function, and working with Fort Miles Historical Association.”

The Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation has previously worked to restore the Indian River Lifesaving Station near the Indian River Inlet on Route 1. Price said the Fort Miles Historical Association will be providing historical equipment inside Tower No. 3 after its renovation.

“Upon its completion, Tower No. 3 will serve as a place for residents and visitors to view a piece of history and honor those who served,” explained Ernie Felici, president of the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation. “Visitors will be able to enter the tower via an internal stairway and access the open-air deck at the top. In addition to restoring the tower, a simulated power station may be constructed that will have a planned interactive presentation program.”

Price said the tower has been inspected and deemed structurally sound for a renovation, and she is excited about its prime location on the Delaware coast.

“It was the most accessible one that we had in our park system in our area. Where it was located was a wonderful thing, and it’s something that’s easily seen as you go up and down the highway,” she said. “We are trying to represent what it was in the past, but also make it accessible for the public.”

Currently, Price said the organizations have raised approximately $30,000 and hope to raise more through grant-writing efforts. She added they hope to begin restoration in 2015.

“Our hope is that it will be much like it was previously, when it was operational. We recently hired Mary Lou Tietz to help with the grant-writing and funding,” Price said. “The challenge has been, a couple of years ago when the economy went down, everything kind of changed and fundraising slowed down dramatically. Now that the economy is coming back up, I think it’ll be a wonderful project. I just think that, now we’re in position to have someone to assist us with this, it’ll move much more quickly. It needed that professional touch.”

Price, whose father and brother both served in the armed forces, said she hopes the restoration will also serve to honor veterans.

“I see it as an opportunity to honor all veterans. Seeing those brings you back to World War II and the role people played here in our area. It’s an opportunity, in a way, to honor all veterans,” she said.

But that effort will go beyond the simple visual reminder of the tower.

“Our plan is to have a computerized system for people to honor the veterans in their family, or their friends, if they wish to. We are going to have a system where they will be able to give information about the service of that individual.”

Price added that the group has received a great deal of community support, and she is excited for what’s in store for the tower.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive support,” she said. “For me, it’s something that’s really touched my heart.”

For more information, visit www.savethetower.org or call Shirley Price at (302) 236-7046. Donations may be made on the groups’ website or mailed to P.O. Box 981, Ocean View, DE 19970.