Friday, December 4, 2015

Still Standing Watch

On a commanding hill top the ancient stone circle still stands defiant, as if daring a long vanished enemy to attempt one last assault upon its yet redoubtable walls.

But that can't be right.  This peculiar structure is in northern Wisconsin.  We don't have castles here. And what passes for an enemy is the rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.  A descent to medieval warfare between them can't be ruled out entirely, but hardly explains this substantial structure a mile or so north of Drummond, Wisconsin.  A few more pictures to give you some clues.  I actually did figure this out, and was surprised.

Thick walls, stone and cement.  They still stand about 10 feet tall on the outside and 20 on the inner aspect.

I have seen smaller castles than this.  It has been abandoned long enough for a birch forest to grow inside, and for some of the upper bits of stone work to fall away.  No doors, no windows.

We sit high up on a hill.  The anomalous looking park bench affords a good view of a lake down below.

There seems to have been considerable effort to apply a smooth coat of mortar to inner and outer surfaces.

This last of course was the big clue.

In the 19th century northern Wisconsin was really only good for one thing.  Lumber.  In the early 1880s the Rust Owen Lumber company built a huge mill and set up Drummond as a company town. Because fire was a huge consideration the company built this reservoir, basically an emergency water supply for fire fighting, on the tallest nearby hill.  Pumps would fill it from the lake down below.

I was puzzled by a couple of things.  The distance from town seemed wrong.  But the lumber mill was closer and I assume the Company cared more about saving it in the event of conflagration.

Also, where are the pipes?  I found a source that describes water being pumped up the hill from the lake to fill the reservoir.  But for fire fighting purposes they had hydrants set up in the lumber yard. The plumbing from the reservoir to the hydrants was made of what they had plenty of....wood. Cedar strips were coated with creosote and bent together into water conduits.  These of course are long, long gone now.

I liked this last detail.  It is pretty much how the Romans did things back in the day.  And I understand that under New York City you might still find a few ancient water pipes made of snugged together and hollowed out logs.
There is something Tolkienesque about this lonely ruin.  The Professor's works of course contain a suitable quote:

"But long before, in the first days of the North Kingdom, they built a great watch-tower on Weathertop.  Amon Sul they called it.  It was burned and broken, and nothing remains of it now but a tumbled ring, like a rough crown on the old hill's head."


Weetabix said...

When I lived in Fairbanks, AK about 25 years ago, we'd occasionally still dig up wood stave pipes that were still in service. I guess since they were deep enough and cold, there wasn't enough oxygen and heat to degrade them?

Tacitus2 said...

I'll show ya some real anaerobic preservation on Wednesday!