Fallston Monopine

The Fallston Monopine photographed with the author's cellphone. (ALLAN VOUGHT | AEGIS STAFF, Patuxent Homestead / December 14, 2011)

I've been reading – more like thumbing – through a book that came out a few years ago about the Lincoln Highway - U.S. Route 30 in my old hood in Pennsylvania — that is sort of considered the first transcontinental highway in this country, from New York City to San Francisco.

Actually, the concept of the Lincoln Highway, which began not long after the dawn of the auto age, was a bunch of roads cobbled together - and over a several year period at that, according to authors Michael Williamson (a photographer) and Michael Wallis (the latter who has written a number of good biographies, including one just out on David Crockett). The two co-authored a similar book about Route 66.

What struck me about "The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate" were the number of photographs it contained of what I can only described as pure American Kitsch: buildings shaped like coffee pots, teapots, ships; giant "muffler men" statues turned into all manner of other giant men beckoning people to eat, drink, be merry and buy this or that product, the obligatory Amish County commercialism we've all grown to love and loathe, art deco gas stations, greasy spoon diners, no-tell motels — most of us have seen it all, and not just on the Lincoln route.

Well, folks, I'm here to tell you the sights along the Lincoln Highway, which Wallis and Williamson in their book claim is undergoing a revival, have nothing on Fallston.


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Saturday morning, as I walked along Laurel Brook Road toward Pleasantville Road on what I call my long loop to the library, it suddenly dawned on me that what we have come to know as the "Monopine" has become a symbol of Fallston, for better or worse.

For those few of you who may not know of what I speak, the Monopine is the 195-foot cell tower on the property of Grandview Christian Church near the intersection of Route 152 and Pleasantville Road that is visible for many miles in each direction.

The tower is decorated with artificial pine boughs for its top 40 or 50 feet, placed around the antennas, with the idea that the structure would somehow look like a giant plastic Christmas tree, not a cell tower — or a regular monopole as the trade calls them.

The problem, of course, is the Monopine sits out in the middle of a field all by itself and looks like, well, a lonesome giant plastic Christmas tree with most of its branches missing.

I can't remember how long the pine part of the Monopine has been on the tower, but I found this excerpt in our archives, written in March 2008, by my former colleague, Rachel Seawell, that describes the thought process that arrived at this curiosity. Many of you will no doubt recall that the Fallston community was upset with the plan to put a cell tower on this site and for some years had waged a delaying war in the zoning process, only to eventually finally fall prey to corporate bulldogging.

"Project Manager for the American Tower Corporation, Ted Huffar, said it would have cost an estimated $134,000 to construct a monopole communication tower at the site, versus $275,000 for a monopine-style tower, which is designed to resemble a pine tree, thus concealing the tower and blending it into its surroundings," Rachel wrote shortly after the tower company triumphed in its zoning appeals case. "Huffar said he was willing to expend the additional $140,000 to construct the monopine tower;. He was not, however, willing to incur a 500 percent increase to construct a silo-style tower, another suggestion given by the [opponents,] which would have cost $673,000."

In October 2008, the plan for the structure was reviewed by the county Development Advisory Committee, and The Aegis reported: "The tower will measure 195 feet and is shaped like a pine tree, according to Karmen Rajamani of American Tower. The proposal includes a four-foot lightening rod to be stationed on the top of the tower, giving it a total height of 199 feet. A fence of Leyland Cypress will help screen the area in addition to a 12-foot wooden fence. Extra screening was requested by neighboring residents."

From what I can see three years later, American Tower did everything it said it would and in accordance what the county ultimately approved.

Frankly, I couldn't take my eyes off the damn thing as I walked along Pleasantville up to Route 152 and then along 152 toward the library.

"How fitting," I thought, "to have such a symbol of progress right in the heart of our community, a structure like no other towering over the landscape. Heck, this could be our Empire State Building, our Space Needle, our Gateway Arch, at least our own equivalent of a giant redwood."

At one point, I stopped a shot a photo of the Monopine — with my cellphone, naturally. I had a notion to fire up my computer when I finally got up to the library to create a greeting card, with my Monopine photo and a giant red bow superimposed on the trunk of the tower.

I'm not that computer savvy, however, but it's still the thought that counts, right? So, happy holidays from Fallston, Monopine World U.S.A.!