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Tower Hill State Park, County Trunk C off Hwy. US 14
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... near Spring Green

Beautifully sited above the Wisconsin River, 77-acre Tower Hill State Park provides campsites, nature and hiking trails, and picnicking facilities. The upland forests, a wide variety of plants, shrubs, birds, and animals, and a 175-foot Cambrian sandstone cliff make the park attractive for those who enjoy natural settings.

The location has special significance in Wisconsin history as the site of the lead region village of Helena and the place where Green Bay entrepreneur, Daniel Whitney, and his partners built a tower to make lead shot, hence the park name. An energetic Yankee entrepreneur who had come to Green Bay in the 1820s, Whitney delved into a wide variety of potentially profitable ventures lumbering on the upper Wisconsin (long before Indian title had been extinguished), fur trading, and town-site speculation. He formed a business partnership to manufacture lead shot in 1830 at a time when Wisconsin had no shot tower and he hoped to market lead in the East. Construction began in 1831 and was completed in 1833, having been interrupted by the Black Hawk War.

The Shot Tower.

The shot tower operated intermittently under various owners from 1833 until 1861. Shot making involved a smelting house, the shot tower itself at the top of the sandstone cliff, a 120-foot shaft cut through the rock beneath the tower, and a 90-foot access tunnel leading to a finishing house beside the Wisconsin River. Molten lead poured into a perforated ladle, dropped 180 feet, and formed shot as it fell, landing in a pool of water at the bottom of the shaft. Cooled shot was loaded into horse-drawn railcars and drawn through the tunnel to the finishing house for drying and polishing. Then it was loaded aboard boats on the Wisconsin River which at that time flowed past the base of the bluff. Helena was a sufficiently prosperous mining community in 1836 to make a serious bid for the territorial capital. When in 1856 Spring Green secured the railroad connection and Helena was bypassed, it began to wither in the ensuing depression of the late 1850s. Foundations of the Helena buildings still remain in the park.

In 1889 Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a Unitarian minister in Chicago and uncle of Frank Lloyd Wright, bought the property and established a summer resort for ministers. The Tower Hill Pleasure Company functioned until his death, and in 1922 Edith L. Jones donated the land and buildings to Wisconsin to be used as a park. In 1970-71 the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the Department of Natural Resources reconstructed the tower and smelter house. The Old Helena Cemetery is across the road from the park. The Helena Marsh Wildlife Area lies adjacent to the park.

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Last Modified:  12/9/2004 10:57:00 AM
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