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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan 488, May 9, 2004

The Oldest Radio Building in the World


Standing just outside the Carisiti School at Rocky Point on New York's Long Island is a neat and very historic small white building.  This well maintained building, now registered as an historic site, is a little more than 100 years old, and its history can be traced right back to the very earliest days of primitive wireless transmission.  Here now is the interesting story of this remarkable building with a long radio history.

It was back in the year 1902 that this small building was constructed by a now unknown carpenter.  The building was erected on a farm near Babylon on Long Island; the owner of the building was Marconi himself, and the purpose of the project was to house a new facility for wireless transmission and reception.

The dimension of the building was just 12 ft. by 14 ft., and inside was a high shelf for the the wireless equipment.  Tall wooden masts were erected for the antenna system, and at one stage these were felled in a storm.     

The wireless station at Babylon was constructed for the purpose of communication with passing ships, and Marconi himself operated the wireless equipment here on several occasions.  This wireless location was also known as Sagaponack.  The original callsign for this station is now lost in the mists of antiquity, though a later call, after the regularization of international callsigns, was WSK.

When larger and more permanent wireless stations were erected on Long Island and at other locations along the Atlantic Coast, the Marconi station at Babylon was closed and abandoned.  Likewise, the little white building was also abandoned.

Many years later, in 1931 to be exact, another radio inventor, Edwin Armstrong, came across Marconi's little wireless shack in Babylon which was now in use as a paint shop.  He bought the building and donated it to RCA, the Radio Corporation of America, and it was moved to the massive radio station, Radio Central, located at nearby Rocky Point.

For the next many years, this important wireless building was used as a store room, and around the time of the war years it was in use for what were considered at the time to be "secret" radio experiments.  RCA engineers were looking at various electronic possibilities, which included also what is now known as radar.

In 1971, several years after the Rocky Point communication station was closed, the little white building was donated by RCA and moved to a new location in front of the Carisiti Elementary School, where it can be still found to this day.

In 1987, an amateur radio club installed radio equipment in the building and went on the air under the callsign N2HNZ.  This was the first time that the building was used for electronic communication since the Marconi days.  Each year this station is activated around the date of Marconi's birthday, April 25, as special event amateur station under the callsign W2RC.

Many internet websites present various aspects of information on the long and interesting story associated with this historic radio building.  The claim is made that the building was used at its original location near Babylon for Marconi's first communication with ships.  Now, in reality, his first wireless contacts with ships go back a few years earlier to the year 1898.  Perhaps, then, these websites refer to the first commercial communication with shipping.

It is also claimed that this small building is the oldest building in North America that was specifically constructed for use as a wireless station and that is still in use for that purpose today.  We would suggest that this claim is correct, and that it could even be the oldest such building in the world.  

It is true, several wireless buildings were erected at other sites earlier than this one on Long Island, and they were located at Poldhu in Cornwall, Cape Breton Island in Canada, Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and at five locations in Hawaii.  However, as far as is known, none of these original buildings is standing today. 

So maybe the claim for the little white Marconi building on Long Island should be elevated from "The Oldest in the United States" to "The Oldest in the World."