High Rock Tower is a historic tower located on High Rock Tower Reservation in Lynn, Massachusetts. The structure is an 85-foot-tall tower built on top of an outcrop of porphyry (crystal filled granite) in the 4.5 acre state park.
In the 17th century, High Rock served as meeting place for the Pawtucket tribe and as the headquarters of their chief, Nanapashemet.
In the late 1840s, Jesse Hutchinson of the Hutchinson Family Singers, a politically-active abolitionist singing group, purchased the 5-acre parcel of land at the summit of High Rock.
Hutchinson was a bit of a spiritualist and hired a clairvoyant to locate a well on the property. When the well was located, Hutchinson built High Rock Cottage, a stone cottage made of locally sourced porphyry and granite, near the well in 1847.
Sometime between 1847 and 1851, Hutchinson constructed a wooden cottage, which he named Daisy cottage, to the west of High Rock Cottage.
Also around 1847, Jesse Hutchinson made plans to build the original High Rock Tower, which was designed by local surveyor, architect and historian Alonzo Lewis. The tower was completed in 1848 and a piazza and balcony were later added to the structure.
The Hutchinson family felt very strongly about making High Rock open to the public and believed it should be used as an “Institute of Advanced Thought” and a “free rostrum for the decision of all the great questions of the day.”
Toward the end of Jesse Hutchinson’s life in 1853, he decided to give the summit of High Rock to the city for the construction of an observatory.
In 1853, Universalist minister, abolitionist and spiritualist leader John Murray Spear claimed he received visionary messages while visiting High Rock and received permission from the Hutchinson family to build a machine on the premises with the help of his spirit guides.
In 1854, Spear and his followers built the New Power Motive, also known as the God Machine, which was a perpetual motion machine that was supposed to be a mechanical messiah, in a wooden shed on the property. The machine failed though and the group later dismantled it and relocated it to Randolph, New York later that year.
During the Civil War, the Hutchinson family held nightly concerts and rallies on the property.
Eventually though, the tower fell into disrepair and vandals burned it down in celebration of the Fall of Richmond in April of 1865.
By 1904 the city also purchased additional land around the summit to create High Rock Reservation, which is now one of Lynn’s oldest parks.
In 1905, the city constructed High Rock Tower, which was designed by H.K. Wheeler & Charles Betton and made of granite. Originally, the tower had a domed observatory on the top level, which has since been removed and later replaced. The tower was officially dedicated in 1906.
The tower was added to the National Register of Historical Places on October 11, 1979.
In 2017, the local organization Centerboard raised $45,000 to install LED lighting and a laser projector for two sides of the tower and additional funding was obtained the following year for LED and laser illumination of the remaining two sides.
Wellington, George. “Nanepashemet and His Descendants Society Paper.” Arlington Historical Society, arlingtonhistorical.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/1907.12.56.pdf
Smith-Dalton, Maggie. A History of Spiritualism and the Occult in Salem. Arcadia Publishing, 2015.
“High Rock Tower.” City of Lynn, lynnma.gov/about/highrocktower.shtml
“High Rock Reservation.” MACRIS, mhc-macris.net/Details.aspx?MhcId=LYN.921
“High Rock Tower.” MACRIS, mhc-macris.net/Details.aspx?MhcId=LYN.941
I’m from Boston and never knew this existed, thank you for your writings. Patti V. East Boston MA
Great info Rebecca, thanks! I was born in Lynn, raised in Peabody (now live in NY), but my dad used to take me to High Rock Tower on our visits to my grandparents when I was very young. I always felt a sort of…mystical attraction to the site and the tower, and clearly from the mentions of clairvoyants, spirit guides, and the God Machine, I’m not the only one. I truly think it has something to do with High Rock being an outcrop of porphyry which contains quartz crystal. Quartz, as in quartz watches and computer circuits, conducts energy and is found in ancient archeological sites the world over, some linked to religion and spirituality. Maybe the folks from the TV show “Ancient Aliens” should explore High Rock! Meantime it’s wonderful that the city has restored the tower, park and observatory. I was there a few years ago and saw Saturn through the telescope!