This picturesque tower was one of Cape Cod’s first tourist traps.
The first of three towers to stand on Scargo Hill, overlooking Scargo Lake, was built by the pioneering Tobey family in 1874. They built the wooden tower in an attempt to draw tourists to their nearby Nobscussett Hotel, one of the early “luxury” hotels of Cape Cod.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the area, is the legend of Scargo Lake, recounted below by a local Cape historian:
“The lake, which is fish-shaped, is believed to be either the legacy of giant god Maushop or a princess named Scargo, whose handmaidens scooped it out with clamshells at the behest of her father, Sagem, who was chief of the Bobuset tribe. The princess had built a small pond in which to keep four baby fish given to her by a young brave from another tribe with whom she had fallen in love. He promised to return to her before the fish were fully grown. One day, the princess awoke to find the lake had dried out and all but one of the fish were dead. Her tears of sadness kept the last fish alive until her father had built her a lake for the fish. The boundary of the lake was marked by the landing points of four arrows fired by a tribe brave. As promised, the princess’ brave returned before the fish matured and they were married. They continued to live at Scargo Lake, where the descendants of the fish continue to swim.”
Sadly, the original tower structure was destroyed by wind after just two years. It was rebuilt, again with wood, but was lost in a fire in 1900. In 1901, the family decided to try again, this time with cobblestone. Luckily this third version of the structure is still around. When the hotel finally closed in 1929, the land was gifted to the town of Dennis. A plaque above the tower entrance reads:
“This tower and hilltop were given to the town of Dennis in 1929 as a memorial to Charles Tobey (1831–1888) and Francis Bassett Tobey (1833–1913). Loyal sons of the village of Dennis where their Tobey ancestors settled in 1678.”
Although only 28-feet-tall, the tower stands on the 160 foot Scargo Hill, and offers amazing views. On a clear day, both Plymouth and Provincetown are visible, as well as the beautiful Cape Cod Bay.
Update as of January 2020: The Scargo Tower is temporarily closed due to safety concerns.