RCA Radio Central

The Radio Corporation of America was formed soon after the end of World War I when it was incorporated in 1919. At that time the American Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of North America, was returned by the U. S. Government to private control. The American government realized the importance of an American wireless communications system, as ocean-laden cables were vulnerable during wartime. Long Island was an ideal and strategic location for wireless.

The time was right for the formation of the Radio Corporation of America which was brought about by the joint technical capabilities of several organizations: General Electric Company, American Telegraph and Telephone Company, Western Electric Company, United Fruit Company, Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company and the Radio Corporation of America. The property of RCA Radio Central at Rocky Point covered approximately 6,400 acres, an area extending ten miles square.

The construction of Radio Central began in July of 1920. At first tents were used for the facility, which grew in time to the RCA Radio Central complex. Radio Central at Rocky Point, was the transmitting station in the RCA system with its sister receiving station at Riverhead (now the David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve ) and the main control office in Manhattan.

In July of 1920, RCA began construction of their main Operating and Administration Building #1. It was built in mediterranean architecture of cream-colored walls, with brick trim, accented with arched windows and an overhanging roof of ceramic red tiles. A large wooden door, trimmed with studded nail heads and a carved brass handle, opened into an entrance hall.

On November 5, 1921 President Warren C. Harding pressed a button in the White House in Washington, D.C. which officially opened the RCA Radio Central facilities at Rocky Point. Radio Central was considered the largest transmitting station in the world.

Originally, long waves were used, resulting in the construction of six 410 high steel towers. The towers were 410’ high with added cross-arm of 40’ high, extending the total height to 450’. The tall height of the structures was necessary for the long distance, worldwide type of radio communications. The twelve towers, which were 1260 apart, covered a two and a half mile area.

Tower #1 remained standing tall, with its flashing red beacon guiding planes and ships, served as an aviation beacon light for another sixteen years. AT 2:30 PM on December 13, 1977, the 56-year-old tower was the last to come down.

The Research and Development Division was located in building #9, north of Whiskey Road. Dr. Harold H. Beverage headed The Research Division. He started his career at General Electric as a laboratory assistant to the world-renowned radio inventor, Dr. E. F. W. Alexanderson. Both Dr. Beverage and Phillip S. Carter laid out the experimental ground wire antennas on the road from Riverhead to East Moriches. Phillip S. Carter was responsible for many inventions including the V antenna and the Folded Dipole. Dr. E. F. W. Alexanderson was responsible for many of the pioneer radio inventions, including the Alexanderson Alternator and was in the employ of RCA Radio Central as Chief Consulting Engineer. Dr. Clarence Weston Hansell was founder and head of the Rocky Point Research Section of the Laboratory. Building #10 was known as the Research and Development Laboratory. Under his leadership and prolific inventions, the laboratory developed radio transmitting, relaying technology and experimental television, which firmed the standards for the industry. Dr. Hansell was responsible in developing 350 patents and 400 inventions. Rocky Point resident, Royal Gallup, worked at the Research Division and helped install the television tower at the Empire State building.

Due to the advent of Satellite communications, the transmitting station at Rocky Point and receiving station at Riverhead became obsolete. The Rocky Point facility was closed in 1978. Robert Lundquist served as Chief of Atlantic operations and was present when the last tower was demolished. On behalf of RCA, he received the silver dollar from Governor Carey for the transfer of the land to New York State, which is controlled by the New York State Department of Conservation and is the largest portion of pine barrens on Long Island. Mr. Lundquist donated that silver dollar to the Rocky Point Historical Society for their archives.