Turning High Rock Tower into Lynn’s night light

A rendering of High Rock Tower illuminated at night. (Image courtesy Centerboard)

LYNN What’s red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, or violet and can be seen for miles?

Starting next week, it’s High Rock Tower.

The $45,000 project to illuminate the 170-foot landmark is the latest effort by Centerboard, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting families and sponsoring public art.

“Lynn is kind of drab and dreary while the Salems and Somervilles of the world have life in them,” said Centerboard CEO Mark DeJoie. “We think illuminating High Rock will brighten our city and give people a reason to look up.”

In the planning stages for two years, the project is supported by a $5,000 grant from the Boston Foundation, one of the oldest community foundations in the U.S.  DeJoie said he’s confident they can raise the rest. Once they reach the $15,000 threshold, MassDevelopment, the state’s development bank, will match it.

It’s not cheap to shine a light on a city. The installation itself cost $4,500, a lighting technician was $5,000, the LED lights are $23,000, and there’s a $5,000 laser that will allow for light shows on holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day and St.Patrick’s Day. Add in another $7,500 for other expenses.

But once the installation is complete, it will only cost about $300 annually in electricity costs.

Ray Pasciuto, the agency’s development director, said they envision the illumination as a model of public safety and a place for the community to gather.

“We think it could be a weather beacon like the Hancock Tower in Boston, and a historical attraction for tourists,” he said. “There’s already an observatory up there and it’s a public art installation that can be seen for miles.”

Less than a mile from the ocean, the tower offers unobstructed views of Boston, Nahant, and Swampscott. While local historians suggest the hill’s summit was used as a look-out by early settlers, the site’s major fame dates from the mid-19th century when High Rock and its rock formation became appreciated for their “romantic” qualities, according to the city’s website.  

Ward 4 City Councilor Richard Colucci is credited with advocating for the project.

“I love the idea,” he said. “The tower will be lighted every night and there will be holiday themes. It will be a great place for everyone in the city to gather.”

This is not Centerboard’s first public art project. They brought giant historic photos to the Central Square bridge and mixed them with contemporary shots. The installation, dubbed “Ghosts of Lynn,” can’t be missed by pedestrians and motorists.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, the light show will kick off after dark and the public in invited.

The project comes on the heels of last summer’s Beyond Walls. The 10-day mural festival highlighted 20 international and local artists who changed the faces of 15 buildings in the downtown with art. The final event, “Rock the Block,” attracted more than 2,500 visitors to celebrate the community effort.

“Lighting the tower is a good idea,” said Al Wilson, Beyond Walls founder. “It’s another positive step to showing people there’s lots of creativity and cool physical assets in Lynn.”

James Marsh, the city’s Community Development director, gave the green light for the latest initiative and said lighting the tower is sure to be a hit.

“Anything to brighten up the city and shine a light on us is a good thing,” he said. “Beyond Walls proved it’s worth doing.”

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