Hike to Heublein Tower

October 17, 2012

Driving down Route 44 in Simsbury, you have likely seen Talcott Mountain towering high above the Farmington Valley. At nearly 1,000 feet in elevation, the large trap rock ridge is also home to Talcott Mountain State Park and the Heublein Tower that stands out as a notable landmark in our community. This weekend, hikers will have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage and give back to this great feature on our landscape.

Without the efforts of Gilbert F. Heublein, there would be no Heublein Tower. Born in Germany in 1849, Heublein immigrated to the United States as a child and later became a successful businessman in the Hartford area. Founded by his father in 1862, Heublein Inc. developed into a food and beverage company best known for manufacturing the popular brands of A1 Steak Sauce and Smirnoff Vodka among others. While hiking on Talcott Mountain, Heublein told his fiancée that he would one day build her a castle on that spot, according to family history.

Built in 1914, the Heublein Tower initially served as a summer home for the Heublein family. Modeled after the buildings in Heublein’s native region of Bavaria, the tower stands 165 feet tall on the top of the mountain. Designed to withstand 100 mile per hour winds, the tower is built with steel and concrete and reportedly even had the first elevator in the entire state of Connecticut. In 1983, the tower was finally placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places for its unique architecture and history.

Situated on 557 acres, Talcott Mountain State Park is managed and operated by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Since it is also located on this property, the tower is managed by the state as well. However, working in partnership with the state, a local preservation group helps provide much of the funding for restoring the tower’s interior.

Established in 1984, The Friends of Heublein Tower is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the tower. Its mission is to “restore for public use the state-owned Heublein Tower landmark to its original and authentic 1914 splendor.”

This Saturday and Sunday, hikers have an opportunity to give back to the community as part of the annual Tower Toot fundraising event. Hosted by The Friends, this fun experience is full of music, food and foliage. At the summit, Scha Musi will be entertaining hikers with German music and food and beverages will be available each day.

About one and a quarter miles long, the Tower Trail takes about 30 to 40 minutes to reach the summit. Once inside the tower, visitors must climb an additional 120 steps to get to the observation room. Trust me, the walk is worth the amazing views of the Farmington Valley, Hartford skyline and more.

With the changing leaves and cooler temperatures, October is one of the best times to set out on a hike. The different shades of orange, red and yellow make this weekend a special opportunity to visit Heublein Tower and support this impressive landmark. To learn more about The Friends of Heublein Tower and the Tower Toot, please visit their website at www.friendsofheubleintower.org.