75th Anniversary of RCA Radio Central

By Natalie Aurucci Stiefel

Three quarters of a century ago, history was made at Rocky Point when RCA Radio Central transmitted its first transatlantic message. On November 5, 1921, President Warren G. Harding pressed a button in his office at the White House, which signaled the start of the generators at "Radio Central" in Rocky Point. President Harding hailed it as a milestone in wireless progress. His message was transmitted from Rocky Point by David Sarnoff, then a General Manager of RCA

Sarnoff previously entered the service of the Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Company in 1906. He became President of RCA in 1930 and eventually, Chairman of the Board of NBC. RCA Radio Central at Rocky Point was considered the world's largest and most powerful wireless transmitting station. Just after World War 1, Radio Central was established at the suggestion of Navy officials to acquire the American Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company. The government encouraged this, as it was hoping for and realiz ed the importance of an American-owned and operated, overseas communications system.

As the use of short waves for international point-to-point radio communications were unknown at this time, long waves were to be used, resulting in the construction of 410 feet high steel towers. The height was necessary for "long waves" in long distance, world wide radio communications. The first twelve towers, which were 1260' apart, stretching over a two and a half mile area, took 1,800 tons of structural steel. Each tower used about 150 tons With the advent of advanced technology and satellite com munications, Radio Central at Rocky Point became obsolete. Through years of neglect and vandalism, the buildings were eventually dismantled by the State. Eleven of the towers were demolished in the early 1950s and 1960s and Tower #1 remained until it, too, was taken down on December 13, 1977. There are now two steel towers, rusted with age on the forest floor, along the bike trail on the land now known as the DEC Rocky Point Natural Management Area.

Rocky Point stands proud in being part of wireless history. It has taken part also in the preservation of the Marconi Wireless Building, which stands in front of the Frank J. Carasiti School. The building, which originally operated in Babylon in 1902, was presented to Rocky Point's RCA Radio Central by another radio pioneer, Major Edwin Howard Armstrong. Communications history was made again this past year in Rocky Point when MCI brought its fiber optic cable up from Hallock Landing Beach, passing the site of the historic Marconi Wireless Building and the land of RCA Radio Central. The cable, which originated in Italy, was brought along the Atlantic ocean floor, across New England and Long Island Sound to join through Rocky Point and connect to the station in Mastic.