Hard Hill in Sokolov (originally also known as Hartenberg, 461m) has a rich history in regards to the numerous structures serving also for other purposes than as mere lookout points..
There was a cemetery and a shooting range on the hill, and a lookout gazebo known as Prašná věž (Pulverturm or Powder Tower) in the 19th century. Nonetheless, the gazebo became so dilapidated and overgrown with trees over time that the local beautification society decided to build a lookout tower on Hard Hill in 1907. A wooden tower with two lookout floors and the total height of 18 metres was built on the foundations of the gazebo according to the design of builder Heinz. Its opening took place on April 15th, 1908. The upper wooden part of the tower did not last long, however, and it had to be torn down after a couple of years. In 1933, the tower torso served as the basis of a memorial to those perished in World War I with a pious hall and a 5-metre bronze statue of Jesus Christ at the top of the memorial created by Sokolov sculptor Tony Schönecker (1893 – 1979).
The memorial did not retain its appearance for long; the statue was removed during the war and probably melted down. The tower served as a German machine-gun nest. The following more than 50 years of neglect sealed the ill fate of the memorial. The revival of the site came with the turn of the millennium when the tower was restored to its original purpose and appearance thanks to the plans of town councillor Martin Volný (even if the tower is lower by 4 metres than its predecessor). The costs expended on the almost one-year reconstruction amounted to CZK 1.6 million, of which 1 million was reimbursed by the Ministry for Regional Development from its Programme for the Support of Tourism and the remaining amount was funded by the Municipal Authority of Sokolov. The observation tower has been re-opened to the public on April 26, 2001. The key to the tower may be obtained at the nearby reception of the Západočeská plynárenská a.s. (West Bohemian Gas Company). Fifty-five stairs lead to the gallery. The lookout gallery offers a view of the town of Sokolov with the vast chemical works complex, as well as the range of Krušné hory (Ore Mountains). The view in other directions is shielded by trees, and a partial view of Slavkovský les (Slavkov Forest) opens in the southeast direction.
Photo : Mgr Karen Vimmerová