Tuesday, October 19, 2010

'We always saw the light': Norfolk goes solar to keep tower glowing

NORFOLK - Bob Jacquier remembers that when he and his wife Dorothy moved from Barkhamsted to Norfolk in 1948 to pursue his dream of owning a dairy farm, the lights that shone brightly from the stone tower atop nearby Haystack Mountain welcomed him home.
"I always saw that light, and as we were a young couple and you got up in the morning and went up pasture and drove the cows down, the light was on," Jacquier, now 81, said. "And at night you saw it. And then as we farmed down in the valley, we always saw the light."
Ellen Battel Stoeckel donated $50,000 to the state in 1929 to erect a tower atop Haystack Mountain that would be perpetually lit in memory of her father and brother. She never could have imagined that 81 years later those lights would be powered by the sun, but even the first tower lights were innovative for their time.
According to a Nov. 16, 1929 article in the now defunct The Hartford Times, the lights were lighted every night with eight 100-watt lamps inside the tower and four 100-watt lamps facing Norfolk village, and were visible 15 to 20 miles in clear weather. The wires ran 1,500 feet underground up the side of the mountain.
The lights glowed from 1929 until the war years in the 1940s, when they were turned off in keeping with government blackout policies. After the war, the lights were turned on again for a few years, but then they went out for good. It's been Jacquier's dream since then to turn the lights back on.
Now it's reality. The state Department of Environmental Protection has placed a solar panel atop a newly-built information kiosk next to the tower. A wire runs inside the walls of the tower, sending energy from the sun to four lights around the roof. At least one can be seen from any direction.
Town and state officials, as well as family and friends of those in the town who helped the project come to fruition, gathered Monday at Town Hall to commemorate the lights, which began working late last month. Sen. Andrew W. Roraback, R-Goshen, has been invested in the project since before solar panels were first discussed in 2006.
"Four and a half years later, which is actually lightning speed for the state of Connecticut, we're here to thank the DEP for making Mr. Jacquier's vision a reality," Roraback said.
Jacquier recalls climbing to the top of the tower with his friends Hank Taylor and Alex Vagliano, who shared his dream of restoring the lights, only a short time before the two men died.
"I just felt then I just had to get this done," Jacquier said. "Both of these men were very minded of agriculture and of the country life here in these towns and thought this was a way to help preserve it with that light."
Alex Vagliano's son, Justin Vagliano, lives next door to Jacquier and was at the ceremony with his son Andrew.
"It was a last wish of my father's and you started right off soon after he died and never let it go," Vagliano said, thanking Jacquier for his efforts.

Originally appeared 10/19/10 in the Republican-American

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