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The Skywatch tower in Cairo, IN
Posted June 18, 2013 - 12:51:09

Skywatch Tower -- Cairo, INBefore Crysta and I ever moved to Lafayette, I decided to google the area and look for interesting landmarks and things to look out for. An odd footnote I ran across back then was the Operation Skywatch tower in Cairo, IN. But it was so odd, I just sort of filed it away and didn't think about it.

Then, randomly on Sunday (years after reading about it) I decided we should track it down.

Cairo (pronounced KAY-ro I'm informed by the internet, much like the town in Illinois) isn't much of a town - if you can even call it that. It's just a few houses that happen to be relatively near each other. You won't find it on most maps, but various websites provided me with the GPS coordinates.

For those who don't know, Operation Skywatch was a program implemented in the 1950s, where 8000 towers were built across the country and staffed by local volunteers 24 hours a day. Their purpose was the very Cold War task of watching the skies for Soviet bombers. These watchtowers were used because at the time low altitude radar wasn't available -- and I think it probably made people feel like they were doing something to help.

To get there we traveled down some random county roads, and pulled onto a mostly gravel, dead-end street. Tucked away where you almost won't see it is the tiniest "park" I've seen. The small plot of land contains the tower itself, a historical marker, a statue/monument dedicated to the volunteers who staffed the tower, and enough room for one car to park.

While the "park" is maintained (someone mows the lawn, flies the flag on the flagpole), the tower itself is in terrible condition. From photos online, I can tell that at one point the tower had stairs and a platform at the top, but all of that has either rotted away or been blown down. In truth, I fear this strange little memorial to the paranoia of the 50s may not last another decade.

And that would be too bad.

If you find yourself in rural Indiana, you should find this place while you still can.
- Traegorn

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