Our friend Bob C. has taken it upon himself to explore the mystery of the Grafton State Hospital tower and he has a theory he’d like to prove: he thinks the tower may be an Irish round tower, of which there is only one known in the United States.
That would be the Irish round tower at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Milford, which was modeled after a tower in Glendalough, County Wicklow.
Now, if you take a look at the St. Mary’s tower, you’ll notice it’s a very neat-looking structure, made with Milford pink granite of course, and it doesn’t have the same creepy charm of our Grafton tower. But it’s also been a very beloved object in Milford and had years of care in a very public graveyard. Grafton State Hospital’s graveyard, aka Hillcrest Cemetery, has been largely neglected up until last year, when the Grafton Job Corps took it on as a project.
In any case, Bob C. found an article online by Sheila Eppolito from the College of Arts, Sciences and Humanities at UMass Lowell. She wrote about UMass Lowell researchers who are working with Queens University in Dublin on the archaeological digs. He contacted her about our possibly Irish tower, and she was intrigued enough to send the photos onto her colleagues.
I’ll note my own skepticism when it was first suggested, because my experience with the towers is limited to this neat and well-cared-for tower in the town next to where I grew up, but then I started Googling for images. Yes, most Irish round towers look a bit neater than the Grafton tower. But there are a number of photos of neglected towers, and they’re looking kind of familiar.
For example, this one, which I found on a Flickr stream. She identifies it as the Aghaviller Round Tower.
And then there’s this one, identified as the Armoy round tower in County Antrim on Wikipedia.
According to Wikipedia, there’s some question about what these towers were actually used for (sound familiar?). The theory was they were used to hide from Viking raiders; the current theory says they were used as bell towers.
So is the Grafton State Hospital tower an Irish round tower? Bob C. and Michelle argued back and forth about it in the comments here and it does sound plausible.