Bear Mountain, 2,326 feet, is prominent peak of the southern Taconic Mountains. It lies within the town of Salisbury, and is the highest mountain summit in the state of Connecticut. The highest point in the state, however, is located on the south slope of Mount Frissell 1.3 miles to the west at 2,379 feet.
Much of the mountain is protected as part of the viewshed and corridor of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which passes over the summit. From the summit the view includes Twin Lakes and cultivated fields to the east, the Catskills to the west, and Massachusetts' Mount Everett to the north.
A pyramidal stone tower was built on the peak in 1885. The current plaque which was originally on the now-demolished pyramid erroneously calls the peak the highest ground in Connecticut; it also overestimates the height of the peak.
The pyramid and plaque as well as the identification of Bear Mountain as Connecticut's highest peak and misidentification as Connecticut's highest point are the work of Robbins Battell of Norfolk, Connecticut, who became convinced that the Encyclopædia Britannica was wrong in stating that there was no point in Connecticut over 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level, and had the Litchfield Hills surveyed.
Having identified Bear Mountain as the state's highest peak, Battell took out a long-term lease on the land and contracted with stone mason Owen Travis for a marker, to be visible from the surrounding district. Over the next three years, despite the lack of roads, Travis brought 350 tons of stone to the summit and constructed a pyramidal tower, 20 feet square at the base and 22 feet tall, tapering to 10 feet square at the top, building it in the fashion of old Connecticut stone fences, with no mortar. A lightning rod stood another 17 feet above the top of the tower.
Over the years, the tower deteriorated and began to collapse. Restoration was hampered by the lack of access by road. In 1972 a private donor had it restored and topped with a cement cap; shortly afterwards, a group of Boy Scouts restored it once again; and finally in 1978, the eastern corner disintegrated and the tower completely collapsed, leaving the plaque in the ruins. In 1982 and 1983 a movement to have the state take over the site resulted in a decision not to rebuild the tower, and the ruins were stabilized and the plaque set into the rubble.
John William Tuohy Bear Mountain