Photo: Sherman’s Chimney Swifts’ Tower

 

 

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Chimney Swifts’ Tower
   Planting—Day Two   •   Planting   •   Grading & Planting   •   Landscaping     Chimney Swifts’ Tower Open House    Anderson Outfits Tower with Webcams     Tower Stands Ready     Tower Site Ready to Grade     The Tower Is White Again     The Tower Is UP!     Writing Specs for the Tower     Seen the Decorah Eagles?

 

Planting—Day Two:  08/29/14

These are photos from the afternoon of Planting—Day Two. All of the plants are in the ground, mulched, and watered, except for the flats of smaller plants we will be planting ourselves.

Everything was calm and peaceful and the plants already look as if they've been there for awhile.

 

 

Photo: the Tower and four Plum trees.

The Tower and four Plum trees.

© Janet Ashman

Photo:

Plants between the Tower and the driveway.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: plants behind the Tower.

Plants behind the Tower.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: plants, starting at the water spigot.

Plants, starting at the water spigot.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: plants continuing from the photo before.

Continuing from the photo before.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: closeup of the bed of shrubs from the photo before.

A closeup of the bed of shrubs from the photo before.

© Janet Ashman

Photo:

The bed of shrubs is on the left side of the photo.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: most of the shrubs by the fence.

Most of the line of shrubs by the fence.

© Janet Ashman


Grading and Planting—Day One:  08/28/14

Once again, the weather didn't cooperate very well. Monday, August 28 was gorgeous and the soil moisture was just right for grading.

Ruth Fox drove down to translate the landscape plan from paper to the ground. We used a garden hose to outline the bed that curls around the Tower.

After labeling about 100 plant flags, we walked around the yard, marking spots for the various trees and shrubs.

Carew Landscaping did their magic with the grader, tree auger, shovels, elbow grease, and mulch.

The before-after difference is astounding!

Photo: The skidloader with a power gill at work.

Tyler Carew drives the skidloader with a power gill.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Ruth and David with the lanscaping plan.

Ruth Fox and David Schmidt translate the plan to the ground.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: David and Ruth laying out a bed with a hose.

David and Ruth lay out the bed by the Tower using a garden hose.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Crew grading near the house.

Tyler Hansen and Kolbi Kohl regrade the area by the house.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Crew doing finish grading.

Jacob Metzger works the area after the machine finishes.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Crew driving the skidloader.

The skidloader with a power gill at work, driven by Tyler Carew.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: crew finishes grading by the house.

Tyler Hansen, Jacob Metzger, and Kolbi Kohl finish grading by the house.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: the Carew truck with all the plants.

The truck is unloaded.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: crew inspects the plants.

Jeff Carew and Jacob Metzger inspect the plants.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: plants sorted  by type.

The plants get arranged by type.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants sorted.

Aren't they beautiful?

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Big plants.

These plants are large enough to make an impression.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: plants being set out.

Plants waiting to be set out.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: plants are carried to their ares.

Jeff Carew and Tyler Hansen carry the plants to their general area.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being moved around.

Tyler Hansen, Jeff Carew, and Jacob Metzger space the plants.

© Janet Ashman

Photo:

One of the water spigots is close to the trees.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: a tree ready to be mulched.

A tree ready to be mulched.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: a tree ready to be mulched.

A newly-planted tree is mulched.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: the row between the driveway and the field.

Part of the row between the driveway and the field.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: the tree auger makes it easy to dig a hole.

The auger makes it pretty easy to dig a hole for a tree.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: the row between the driveway and the fence.

Part of the row between the driveway and the fence.

© Janet Ashman


Landscaping:  08/08/14

Last Fall, we contracted with Ruth Fox, (Ruth L. Fox Landscape Architecture + Planning) to design a landscape plan for the Tower area.

We wanted to include plants Althea had on her property in National and others native to our area and historically appropriate for the times.

We ordered plants from Willowglen Nursery in Decorah, Iowa. The weather just didn't cooperate much this past spring. Our planting date kept getting pushed forward.

Finally, as the Iowa River was rising, Lindsay Lee and Dean Thompson from Willowglen drove the plants down to Carew Landscaping in Iowa City who was going to do the actual planting.

 

 

Photo: Landscape plan for the Tower area.

Ruth Fox's original landscape plan for the area around the Tower.

Photo: Plant delivery day at Carew Landscaping.

Hard to believe the number of plants that were in the trailer.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

Carter Carew unloads one of six Lilacs.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

It rained as the plants were delivered.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

Tyler Hansen and Dean Thompson carry a large shrub.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

Carter Carew with two Budelias.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

The plants were "stored" in two mulched stalls next to the Iowa River.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

Carter Carew carries flats of Columbine and Lily of the Valley.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

Robbie Ozzello with a shrub.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plant delivery day at Carew Landscaping.

Tyler Hansen grabs two shrubs.

© Janet Ashman

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

Kevin Sexton with a medium-sized tree.

© Janet Ashman

 

Photo: Plants being delivered to Carew Landscaping.

Robbie Ozello and Lindsay Lee agree the plants look good and will be safe until they are planted.

© Janet Ashman

The plants looked fabulous! They were larger than we had imagined. It was easy to picture them out at Bickett-Rate.


Chimney Swifts’ Tower Open House:  11/10/13

Many guests from Johnson County, Cedar County, and beyond joined us for this beautiful day. There were even some repeat attenders from our July Open House. All seemed intrigued and impressed with Althea's creation, and amazed at the stunning beauty and perfect setting the Bickett-Rate Memorial Preserve has provided.

Jim Walters led the tours of the Tower through the afternoon. Our displays, brochure, and guest book were set up in the main room inside Edgewood Hall House.

We played the promotional Sherman video created by Jim Tade in the mid-90s. The footage showing hundreds of Chimney Swifts dropping into the chimney at Hoover Elementary School is still awesome!

A display in the corner room opposite the Tower provided views of the chimney's interior through Bob Anderson's webcams. The "down" camera is at the top of the chimney, looking down. The "up" camera features the north chimney wall, where the swifts have historically nested in the past. Outlines of previous nests are still visible on this wall.

Since there is no current Chimney Swift activity, the screen views appear as still images. But when those touring the Tower open the chimney door and look or reach in, the viewers in the house are reminded that these are live cameras. The clarity of the images is just great—it will be SO exciting when swifts move in!

There's an excitement and wonder that everyone seems to feel when they enter the Tower. Especially when they reach the top floor with its observation windows, peepholes, and Althea’s “opera" seat.

Built solely for the purpose of study and research, real science happened in the Tower. It is so rustic and plain, yet quaint, unusual, and highly innovative—a true testament to the ingenuity and scientific dedication of Althea Sherman.

Photo: Tower.

Althea's Tower.

Photo: Tower.

Althea's Tower.

Hundreds of people were led up theTower stairs by Althea in her day. Following in her footsteps, literally, we have now taken more than 100 visitors up those same stairs.

Soon we’ll be sealing the Tower for winter and looking forward to reopening it for tours (and Chimney Swifts!) next spring. We are also gearing up for landscaping the site this coming spring. Getting started on planting the bird/research sanctuary, a windbreak, and putting in sidewalks can’t happen too soon!

 

While at the Tower Open House, the renowned nature photographers Linda and Robert Scarth took these interior and exterior photos for use on our website. Wow! We're very grateful!

You may be familiar with their gorgeous book, Deep Nature:  Photographs from Iowa. If not, add it to your library!

The Scarths are not only fabulous photographers, but really fine writers, too. Their blog, techniques, notes, and other features on their website are very informative, beautifully written, and inspiring. They were also featured in an IPTV Iowa Outdoors segment, which is well worth watching.

Photo: Chimney Windows.

Observation window for looking up inside the chimney.

Photo: Down the Tower stairs.

Down the Tower stairs.

Photo: Cupboard in the Tower.

A cupboard under the rafters.

Photo: Tower window.

Tower window.

Photo: Observation window to indie of chimney.

Observation window for looking down inside the chimney.

Photo; Upthe Tower stairs.

Up the Tower stairs.

Photo: Peep holes for looking onto the chimney.

Peep holes for looking into the chimney.

Photo: Chimney window shutter.

Shutter for an observation window.

Photo: Tower.

Tower with Edgewood Hall House in the background.


Bob Anderson Outfits Tower with Webcams and a Microphone:  10/3/13

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Bob Anderson preparing to wire the Tower with web cams and a microphone.

© Chris Gourley—10/3/13

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Bob Anderson discussing the plan with Orlan Love (The Gazette's outdoor writer).

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

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Dave Irvin about to drill holes for the cables inside Edgewood Hall House.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

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Bob Anderson inside the Tower's chimney, as seen though an observation window.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

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Bob working inside the Tower's chimney.

© Chris Gourley—10/3/13

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Bob inside the chimney, as seen though a knot hole.

© Chris Gourley—10/3/13

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Bob Anderson pulling cable through the Tower walls.

© Chris Gourley—10/3/13

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Bob working inside the chimney as seen though an observation window.

© Chris Gourley—10/3/13

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Bob pulling cable inside the Edgewood Hall House.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

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It works! A view from the top of the Tower's chimney looking down inside.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

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The screen shows the top of Dave Irvin's head as he finishes up inside the Tower.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

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A view of the microphone from inside the Tower's chimney looking up.

© Chris Gourley—10/3/13

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Bob Anderson inside Edgewood Hall House. Imagine seeing swifts nesting on the walls.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

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Chris Gourley (IPTV) interviewing Bob Anderson.

© Janet Ashman—6/19/13

Photo:  Chimney camera looking down.

Web camera view looking down the chimney.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

Photo:  Chimney camera looking up.

Web camera view looking up the chimney.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13

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Bob Anderson standing in the Tower doorway.

© Barbara Boyle—10/3/13


Tower Stands Ready for Chimney Swifts:  7/18/13

Photo: Tower as finished.

The Tower stands ready once again for swifts.

© Barbara Boyle—7/18/13

This original, innovative scientific tool, built in 1915 for attracting and researching Chimney Swifts, has been successfully rehabilitated after more than twenty years in storage!

Those of you who have followed our efforts for more than two decades surely wondered if the Tower would ever stand again. And it's okay if you doubted it would. We wondered, too, more than once.

It probably would not have stood again without the State Historical Society of Iowa, Historic Site Preservation Grant Program. And it certainly would not have been restored without all of our generous donors—many of you who are reading this now.

We are so deeply grateful to all of you who made this long-awaited success possible!

Our primary goal with the grant was to raise the funds necessary to cover all the people, equipment, and materials necessary to complete the rehabilitation of the Tower. And we did it!

The chimney is open and ready for a new family of Chimney Swifts, and the Tower will be available for people to enter, and see, and use for research again.

This is a dream come true for us. . .

Thanks to several generous donations in the last weeks, we were also able to hire a landscape architect who created a plan for a living bird sanctuary, intended to attract birds (and butterflies) of all kinds, and to reflect Althea's living laboratory.

We were also able to purchase a number of period trees and shrubs known to have been in Sherman's original sanctuary. The landscaping work will begin in fall.

Nestled in the Cedar trees at the Bickett-Rate Memorial Preserve, the Tower looks resplendent in its new coat of fresh white paint.

On a recent visit there were Cedar Waxwings, a Kingbird, Cardinals, Chipping Sparrows, a Phoebe, a Downy Woodpecker, Robins, an Indigo Bunting, and Goldfinches. All seen in those Cedars or in the area closely surrounding the Tower.

A Bobolink passed through the yard. A Red-headed Woodpecker drummed on a tree across the drive, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker's call was heard. Probably to Althea's dismay, a House Wren was loudly announcing its presence.

Many, many Barn Swallows were swooping throughout the area. And 17 of their nests were counted in just one area of the barn. A pair of Turkey Vultures was seen entering the barn several times over the last couple months and a Great Horned Owl was seen in there on the 4th of July.

Chimney Swifts had been present in nearby Buchanan but none had been seen in the Bickett-Rate yard. Then in mid-July reports started coming in of swifts flying over the Tower.

Sure enough, we've seen them ourselves, flying right over the chimney. We believe if they‘ve flown over the chimney, they‘ve also been in the chimney. It‘s their nature. Hopefully we'll be able to film some roosting swifts this fall!

We're not quite ready for a regular tour schedule yet. There is still much to do at the site. We will be hosting some donor open houses this fall, and there will be a major celebration at some point. We will keep you posted!

And, THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Photo: Sherman's Tower, National, IA.

The Tower in National, Iowa.

© Althea R. Sherman Collection


Tower Site Ready to Grade:  6/25/13

If only the downpours would stop so the mud could dry . . .

Photo: Tower as seen through Edgewood Hall window.

The Tower as seen through an Edgewood Hall House window.

© Janet Ashman—6/19/13

Photo:  Tower with Rich Dana in doorway.

Rich Dana entering the Tower. The roof ridges have been trimmed.

© Janet Ashman—6/19/13

Photo:  Tower with roof rails trimmed.

The Tower with its exterior coat of paint finished.

© Janet Ashman—6/19/13

Photo:  Tower with door..

The Tower with a front door.

© Janet Ashman—6/19/13


The Sherman Tower Is White Again:  6/2/13

Photo: Tower painted white, again at last.

Rich Dana and Todd Sabin began painting the Tower last weekend.

© Rich Dana—6/2/13


The Sherman Tower Is UP!:  5/7/13

We are beyond thrilled to report that Althea R. Sherman's Chimney Swifts' Tower stands again!

The plan was to situate a 25-ton crane in the Edgewood Hall yard to lift the Tower to its foundation. Eastern Iowa has had an excessive amount of rain over the last two months, including 3-4 inches that fell just three days before the Tower raising. Because of that, we did not know until Monday night if Tuesday's plan would proceed. We were very excited to get the phone call telling us yes, the plan was a go.

We arrived early Tuesday morning to see a 50-ton crane parked in the driveway! Someone said they could see it from miles away, slicing the skyline. The tower was first hitched to the crane bridle and lifted horizontally in order to remove the flat-bed trailer. Then the bridle was re-attached to the top of the tower for the vertical lift.

Everyone, even the construction crew, thought the crane operator was going to swing theTower around the trees. To everyone's astonishment, he lifted the Tower OVER the trees! Given that the trees are about 30 feet tall, and theTower 28 feet high, its top had to have been 60 feet or so in the air!

It was a completely unexpected and spectacular sight! As it cleared the trees, the Tower spun slowly and gently on its way down to the foundation. One of the crew was overheard saying "It knows where it wants to go." The crew easily guided the Tower's new sill plate to the anchor bolts rising from the foundation. The Tower was securely attached to the foundation. It stands again!

We never imagined we'd see the Tower fly! Our hearts and spirits flew right along with it. As unexpected and odd a sight as this was, it felt somehow really appropriate. Someone wondered if any Chimney Swifts saw their new home, and a few of us shed a tear, wondering what Althea might have thought and felt. We so hope she was watching...

In the week since, the new roof is on and work has shifted to the interior. The grant deadline, and deadline for the Tower to be finished, is coming so fast! June 15! Hammers will be flying, too!

And, we've got a flat-bed trailer for sale! Yay!

Photo:  Tower moves out of storage.

Photo:  Tower moved out of storage.

Kurtis Voparil and his 1958 John Deere tractor pulls the Tower out of storage. Todd Birkel (our Structural Engineer) looks on, Rich Dana leans in.

© Janet Ashman—5/6/13

Darran Hidder and Todd Sabin (our Contractor) begin to prep the Tower for crossing Co Hwy X40 to its forever home.

© Janet Ashman—5/6/13

Photo:  Tower crossing the road to Walters Lane.

Photo: Tower on the lane to Edgewood Hall.

Kurtis Voparil pulls theTower across Co Hwy X40, turnss on Walter's Ave.

© Janet Ashman—5/6/13

Tower turning off Walter's Ave onto the Edgewood Hall lane.

© Janet Ashman—5/6/13

Photo:  Prepping Tower for the lift.

Photo: Tower lifted off trailer.

Tower being cabled by Rich Dana and Darran Hidder in preparation for the lift off the tralier. Todd Birkel snaps a photo. Rick Schmitt, Kurtis Voparil, and Bo Donaldson walk off.

© Janet Ashman—5/7/13

Tower has been lifted off the trailer by the 50-ton crane, operated by Terry Hamer. Crew looks on.

© Janet Ashman—5/7/13

Photo:  Tower nearly upright.

Photo:  Tower lifted upright.

Tower being lifted upright by the crane. Rick Schmitt, Todd Birkell, and Darran Hidder look on.

© Janet Ashman—5/7/13

Tower upright and prepared by Rich Dana, Rick Schmitt, Todd Sabin, and Bo Donaldson to fly over the Cedar trees.

© Janet Ashman—5/7/13

Photo: Tower flying over the Cedars.

Photo: Tower flying over the Cedars.

Tower lifting off and flying!

© Barbara Boyle—5/7/13

Tower flying over the Cedar trees.

© Barbara Boyle—5/7/13

Photo:  Tower flying over the Cedars.

Photo:  Tower flying over the Cedars.

Tower descending.

© Barbara Boyle—5/7/13

Tower about to set down.

© Barbara Boyle—5/7/13

Photo:  Tower nearly set on its pad.

Photo:  Tower trying to align.

Todd Sabin pushes against the Tower to align corners with the anchor bolts.

. © Janet Ashman—5/7/13

Rich Dana steps into the Tower to help align it from the inside.

© Janet Ashman—5/7/13

Photo:  Tower Down!

Photo:  Tower unbraced.

Tower standing on its pad...Finally!

© Janet Ashman—5/7/13

Tower without its front bracing.

© Janet Ashman—5/7/13

Photo: Tower with Roof!

Photo:  Tower with chimney shakes.

Tower with the new Cedar roof.

© Barbara Boyle—5/14/13

Tower with the new roof ridge rolls and shingles on the chimney.

© Barbara Boyle—5/16/13

Photo:  Tower with roof and Edgewood Hall.

Photo:  Tower and Sherman House in National.

Tower and Edgewood Hall at Bickett-Rate.

© Barbara Boyle—5/14/13

Tower and the Sherman house in National, Iowa. Check the photo to the left again. Amazing, isn't it?

© Eloise Meyer

Photo:  Trailer for sale.

The trailer really is for sale. Our phone number and e-mail address appear at the bottom of the page. Contact us for more information.

 

Trailer for saleI

© Barbara Boyle—5/7/13

 

Writing Specs for the Tower:  4/25/13

We heartily thank all of you who have been donating to help us match our grant! We are getting ever closer and we deeply appreciate your support. We will be having a donor-gratitude event at the site in the near future and will be notifying you soon. Thank you!

For anyone else who would still like to help us meet our match, there is a $15,000 matching pledge in effect which will double your money (dollar for dollar) up to that amount. We haven't met our grant match yet, and there's still time, though that is getting short.

We recently added a PayPal account to our website, so donating now is easy and instant!

Donate Now by Check or Online!

We are a 501(c) (3) organization and your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Please join us in raising the funds necessary to preserve and honor Althea Sherman’s unique contribution to ornithology with your own contributions toward rehabilitating her Chimney Swifts’ Tower.

Actual, physical work on Althea Sherman's Chimney Swifts' Tower started a number of weeks ago, while the Tower is still in storage and horizontal on a trailer. Todd Sabin of Four Prong LLC is our Contractor, guided by our Preservation Architect, Doug Steinmetz. They've done as much as they can until the Tower is standing again.

The Tower will be standing again very soon and work will begin on the interior. We earnestly hope the rain will give us a break, as the deadline for the Tower to be up and finished is June 15!

Photo:  Tower about to go into storage for the last time.

Tower about to go into storage for the last (we hope!) time, Buchanan, Iowa.

© Janet Ashman

Photo:  Todd Sabin, Barbara Boyle, and Doug Steinmetz signing the construction contract with the Tower in the background.

Todd Sabin, Barbara Boyle, and Doug Steinmetz sign the contract with the Tower in the background.

© Janet Ashman

We were held up by the cold spring and frost in the ground, then for weeks by rain. Finally, the footings for the tower's foundation went in the ground today The concrete pad will be poured 4/26.

Photo:  Rich Dana, Todd Sabin, and Darrel x work on bracings for the Tower.

Rich Dana, Todd Sabin, and Darran Hidder work on bracings for the Tower's move to Bickett-Rate.

© Barbara Boyle

Photo: Concrete footinga for the Tower.

Concrete footings for the Tower were poured April 25, 2013.

© Barbara Boyle

As if realizing 20-year-old goals were not exciting enough, we are thrilled to report that Bob Anderson visited with us at the Tower's new site recently and was clearly impressed by the possibilities there.

Bob has also been fascinated by Chimney Swifts since he was a child. His webcams and microphones will allow us to live stream Chimney Swift nesting activities from inside the Tower's chimney.

As well as exploring the Tower and Edgewood Hall, he led the way to the barn and talked of placing nest boxes and cameras there, as well.

Althea did just that a century and more ago, using soap boxes to attract Flickers and other hole-nesting species. She included peep-holes and hand-holes in her designs so that she could study the nesting birds and reach in to extract the nestlings for weighing and measuring.

 

Photo:  Doug Steinmetz and Bob Anderson peruse the blueprints.

Doug Steinmetz and Bob Anderson look over the blueprints.

© Barbara Boyle


Seen the Decorah Eagles’ Webcam?

Photo: Bob Anderson stretched out in an Eagle nest.

Bob Anderson resting in an Eagle nest, Decorah, Iowa.

© Raptor Resource Project Blog (3/5/12)

 

Cinematographer Bob Anderson is “the guy behind” the Raptor Resource Project, aka the Decorah Eagles. Bob met Doug Steinmetz (our Preservation Architect) recently at a conference.

And as a result of their meeting, Bob became interested in the restoration of the original Sherman Chimney Swifts’ Tower and our educational project.

Bob has offered to equip the Tower with webcams!

• He’ll install daylight/night-vision cameras inside the Tower along with a microphone.

• There will also be a camera outside so the Swifts can be seen dropping into and leaving the chimney.

Althea Sherman wanted to study Chimney Swifts and designed this innovative structure to accomplish that goal. She was the first human ever to view the entire nesting cycle of this species, and studied the Swifts for 18 years from within this very Tower.

The technological advances of today would have been inconceivable to Althea. She could not have imagined internet streaming or webcams and their ability to reach people around the globe, or ever dreamed of their potential in education.

That her humble Tower will be coupled with this far-reaching technology to share and further her work and educational efforts would surely bring her profound joy and gratification.

Through teaming with Bob Anderson, we will all be able to see what Althea saw for the first time, from the very place where she first saw it.

We will be able to witness, learn, and add even more to her research of Chimney Swift family life. We are so grateful to Bob for his interest and future work with our project!

 

Photo: portrait of Althea R. Sherman

Althea Rosina Sherman

© Oberlin College Archives

Contact Us
1033 E. Washington St   •   Iowa City, IA 52240-5248
319.668.1838
www.althearsherman.org   •   4althea@windstream.net

updated       05.18.15
Grafic: pen and ink drawing of Sherma’s Chimney Swifts’ Tower by William J. Wagner, AIA

Sherman’s Chimney Swifts' Tower

© William J. Wagner, FAIA (1965)