Wharton Lookout Tower

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The Wharton Lookout Tower (also called East Lake Tower) is a 100-foot tall galvanized steel frame fire lookout tower erected in 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps on Ruffner Mountain near East Lake in what is now the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. It was named in honor of Jefferson County Commissioner Bob Wharton.

The tower's site is at 1,216 feet elevation, bringing the observation deck to over 1,300 feet above sea level.

The tower is an example of the Model MC-39 tower manufactured and sold by the Aermotor Windmill Company. The top of the tower, accessed by a stairway, is enclosed by a 7-foot by 7-foot cab. A ladder provides access to a rooftop platform that once supported a beacon used to assist pilots landing at Birmingham Municipal Airport.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve currently owns the tower, which is structurally unsafe and off-limits to the public. Former executive director Robbie Fearn worked with Jay Pigford of ArchitectureWorks and Structural Design Group to study the feasibility of repairing and opening the tower to public use. Those plans have been set aside for the present.


  • Cason, Mike (December 24, 2012) "Birmingham's highest point: Ruffner Mountain planning to restore fire tower for public viewing." The Birmingham News

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