"Mount Greylock, 3,491 feet (1,064 m), is the highest point in Massachusetts; its peak is located in the northwest corner of the state in the western part of the town of Adams (near its border with Williamstown) in Berkshire County. Although geologically part of the Taconic Mountains, Mount Greylock is commonly associated with the abutting Berkshire Hills to the east. The mountain is known for its expansive views encompassing five states and the only taiga/boreal forest in the state. A seasonal automobile road (open annually from late May through November 1) climbs to the summit, where stands the iconic 93-foot (28 m) high lighthouse-like Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial Tower. A network of hiking trails traverse the mountain, including the 2,179-mile (3,507 km) Appalachian Trail. Mount Greylock State Reservation was created in 1898 as Massachusetts' first public land for the purpose of forest preservation.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Mahican people were closely associated with this region. The traditional trade route connecting the tribes of the Hudson and Connecticut River valleys (today, Route 2, known as the Mohawk Trail) passes beneath the northern flank of Mount Greylock.
The mountain was known to 18th century English settlers as Grand Hoosuc(k). In the early 19th century it was called Saddleback Mountain because of its appearance (Saddle Ball, the name of the peak to the south, still reflects this).
The origin of the present name of Greylock and its association with the mountain is unclear. It first appeared in print about 1819, and came into popular use by the 1830s. It may be in reference to its appearance, as it often has a gray cloud, or lock of gray mist upon his head, or in tribute to a legendary Native American chief, Gray Lock. Gray Lock (c.1670-1750) was a Western Abenaki Missisquoi chief of Woronoco/Pocomtuc ancestry, born near Westfield, Massachusetts. Gray Lock distinguished himself by conducting guerrilla raids into Vermont and western Massachusetts in the conflict variously known as Dummer's War, Three Years War, Lovewell's War, The War with the Eastern Indian or Father Rasle's War. Although it is not clear whether he was actually ever personally associated with the mountain, perhaps in tribute to his notoriety the mountain came to bear his name.
By the mid-19th century improved transportation into the region attracted many visitors to Greylock. Among them were writers and artists inspired by the mountain scene: Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Cullen Bryant, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Herman Melville, and Henry David Thoreau.
Thoreau summited and spent a night in July 1844. His account of this event in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers described his approach up what is today the Bellows Pipe Trail. Scholars contend that this Greylock experience transformed him, affirming his ability to do these excursions on his own, following his brother John's death; and served as a prelude to his experiment of rugged individualism at Walden Pond the following year in 1845.
The greatest period of development on Mount Greylock occurred in the 1930s. The Massachusetts (Veterans) War Memorial Tower on the summit was constructed (1931–32). The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) 107th Company, MA camp SP-7, from 1933-1941 made extensive improvements on roads, trails, scenic vistas, firebreaks, forest health improvement and recreation area development. Some of the more significant CCC features included development of the road system (gravel surfaced) to accommodate automobiles, Adirondack lean-to shelters, the Thunderbolt Ski Shelter and completion of Bascom Lodge.
Prominent features on the summit are the Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial Tower, Bascom Lodge, the Thunderbolt Ski Shelter and a television/radio tower. Because of the cultural significance of the mountain and excellent examples CCC period park structures, the Mount Greylock Summit Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in on April 20, 1998, reference number 98000349.
The Veterans War Memorial Tower was approved by the state legislature in October 1930, supported by Senator Theodore Plunkett of Adams and Governor Frank G. Allen. The memorial was originally intended to be erected in Boston's Charles River Basin, before plans were changed to build it on Mount Greylock. It was designed by Boston-based architects Maginnis & Walsh, and built by contractors John G. Roy & Son of Springfield in 1931-32 at a cost of $200,000. It takes the form of a perpetually lighted beacon to honor the state's dead from World War I (and subsequent conflicts). The light used to be the strongest beacon in Massachusetts, with a nighttime visible range of up to 70 miles.
The architectural design of the tower, a 93-foot (28 m) tall shaft with eight frieze-framed observation openings, was intended to have no suggestion of Utilitarianism but instead to display classic austerity. It includes some minor Art Deco details such as the decorative eagle on the base which were designed in part by John Bizzozero of Quincy, Massachusetts [Bizzozero also designed details on the Vermont Capitol building]. Inside it is a domed chamber for a reverential shine that was intended to store tablets and war relicts from wartime units in the state's history.
Although local legislators and residents advocated for local stone to be used, it was ultimately quarried from Quincy (MA) Granite. In part, it bears the inscription "they were faithful even unto death." One of the inscriptions inside the monument is, "Of those immortal dead who live again in the minds made better by their presence", which is a line from a poem by George Eliot. The translucent globe of light on top, originally illuminated by twelve 1,500 watt lights (now six), is said to be visible at night for 70 miles (110 km). The formal dedication ceremony on June 30, 1933 by Governor Joseph B. Ely was attended by about 1,500 and broadcast nationally over NBC radio.
Bascom Lodge was built between 1932-1938 using native materials of Greylock schist and red spruce. Designed by Pittsfield architect, Joseph McArthur Vance, it displays the rustic architectural design of period park structures. The Greylock Commission had desired to rebuild a more substantial shelter for visitors and hikers to the summit after the previous summit house (built c.1902) burned down in 1929. The initial west wing was constructed in 1932 by Jules Emil Deloye, Jr. The main-central and east wings were completed later 1935-38 by the CCC, supervised by Deloye. The lodge was named in honor of John Bascom, a Greylock Reservation Commissioner and Williams College professor, who had a strong association with the mountain during his lifetime.
Today, Bascom Lodge is run by the Bascom Lodge Group, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation's Historic Curatorship Program."