THE 1902 MARCONI BUILDING

(Excerpts from: “In The Shadow of the Radio Towers by N. Stiefel))

 

Marconi’s 1902 Station at Babylon

Note: House was also used as school and station,

as well as the small building shown at right

 

The 1902 Marconi “Radio Shack” building originally operated in Babylon in 1902.

It was moved to the RCA Radio Central Transmitting Station in 1930.

 

NEWSPAPER DOCUMENTATION

During the first week of August in 1902 a notice was printed announcing the Jacobs cottage on Fire Island Avenue in Babylon was leased for five years from August 1st to the Marconi  Wireless Telegraph Company of the United States The house also served as a station and training school. The Babylon Signal of September 13, 1902 reported “The Marconi Wireless Station is now in thorough working order. On the main floor is the office and generating room. On the second floor is where the messages are transmitted and received.

 

Note: the sign on Fire Island Avenue states: “This is the site of the birth of the American     wireless a pioneer station here in 1901 first talked with ships at sea.  Note: Marconi had earlier stations in the United States and the Babylon Station was leased in 1902 for five years.

 

The first Marconi land station in the United States was erected at Navesink Lighthouse, near Sandy Hook, New York Harbour mouth in September 1890, for reporting the American Cup Yacht Races. The next Marconi land station in the United States was erected in August, 1901 at Siasconsett,  In July 1902, another coast station was erected at Sagaponack, Long Island,   Babylon followed in September of  1902. Later, Marconi also established a station at Seagate in Brooklyn.

 

 

(photo courtesy Sarnoff Librtary)

 

TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP TO EDWIN H. ARMSTRONG IN 1930

 

This photo from the David Sarnoff Library, depicts the actual move of the Marconi Wireless building from Babylon to Rocky Point in 1930. 

 

As early as 1929 radio pioneer, Edwin H. Armstrong, summered in Bayport at the H. H. Seaman’s cottage on the bay at the foot of Suydam Lane.  He visited his Army friend, Captain Round, who worked for Marconi in Babylon. Captain Round was associated with the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, as third assistant Technical Officer, in his early pioneer work at the Babylon station. He attested to the authenticity of the building.  It was in 1930 when Armstrong purchased the little wireless building from the farmer.

 

Documentation of purchase:  Newspaper article of November 14, 1930 states “unique real estate deal made by Sayville real estate agency in purchase of radio plant used by Marconi. Mrs. George A. Robinson buys for Bayport summer resident, Edwin Armstrong.” New York Times of November 9th reported: “A deserted shack, which for years stood neglected near Babylon, had suddenly gained fame used by Guglielmo Marconi.” Note: incorrect statement in article that it was first station.  

 

TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP TO RCA IN 1930

 

Edwin Armstrong officially gave the building to the RCA Transmitting Station in Rocky Point. Formal acceptance of the gift was made by David Sarnoff, President of RCA. The “radio shack” stood in front of RCA’s Building #1 for many years and was later stored in the Robinson Barn on Route 25A. The little radio shack started to deteriorate so badly, that it could not be moved to the RCA Exhibition at the 1939 World’s Fair. It survived two fires while stored inside the barn.

 

 

Guglielmo Marconi and David Sarnoff, President of RCA,

standing beside the  Marconi building  when it stood in front of RCA’s Bldg. #1,

  during Marconi’s visit to Rocky Point in 1933.

 

 

 

TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP TO ROCKY P OINT SCHOOL DISTRICT #9

Due to the use of Satellite communication, RCA was planning to close their transmitting facilities at Rocky Point. A letter of May 14, 1969 from RCA Station Engineer, Robert T. Lundquist, documents the transfer of ownership of the Marconi building from RCA Radio Central to the Rocky Point Union Free School District #9. RCA Manager, Robert Lundquist, presented it to the Rocky Point School. At this time, at the suggestion of Mr. Frank J. Carasiti and Mr. Robert Lundquist, the building was moved from the Robinson Barn across the street to the Joseph A. Edgar School. 

 

RESTORATION OF THE BUILDING

 

 

At the time before the building was moved from the Robinson Barn across the street to the Joseph A. Edgar School property, the building was badly deteriorated, as shown in above photo. It was so weakened by deterioration that some of the floor needed repair before it could be moved across the road.  The Vincent P. Sons of Italy Lodge supplied funds for materials and Rosario Aurucci (left) volunteered the labor to repair the badly deteriorated boards and floor.

 

 

Students shown with Frank J. Carasiti and Rosario Aurucci at the

Marconi building in front of the Joseph A. Edgar School

 

 

Condition of building in 1972

before restoration

 

 

In 1989 the little building was moved to a new location, when a crane lifted it and carried it to the grounds of the Vincent P. Landi Sons of Italy Lodge. The property was later occupied by Majestic Gardens.  Anthony Bongiovanni, who was President of the Lodge at the time, commented that the Sons of Italy contracted further restoration work of the building, including new shingles. The moving of the building was made possible by Bill Skinner of The Barnyard in Middle Island.

 

On September 14, 1994 the Marconi building was destined for another move to a new home.  Spectators along 25A witnessed a “piece of history” moving down the main road.  The building was moved from the former Sons of Italy site to the Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School on Rocky Point-Yaphank Road.  The school property was formerly owned by the Radio Corporation of America, the world’s largest wireless transmitting station.  One month prior to the move, a concrete foundation was carefully made in front of the school.  Supplies were provided by Dominic Pirraglia of D & F Mason and Landscaping of Rocky Point.  Labor was paid by Anthony Bongiovanni of Rocky Point Jewelers.  Early on that Wednesday morning, a volunteer team moved the historic building.  Volunteers consisted of Bill Skinner and his assistant, Ricky Kiely of The Barnyard, Middle Island; Kenneth Monz of Creative Concrete; Rocky Point; Dominick Pirraglia and Ben Pelosi of D & F Mason

 

 

RESTORATION PROJECT

 

The Rocky Point Historical Society has been working very closely, along with the Rocky Point School District #9, as the caretakers of the historic Marconi building,

 

In October of 2005 the Rocky Point Historical Society voted to appropriate $1,500. for materials to restore the Marconi “radio building”. In the summer and autumn of 2006 restoration of damaged oak boards, as well as interior and exterior painting was completed. This included oak boards to duplicate original ones, as well as nails from the 1902-1905 time frame. Volunteers, led by President Kenny Blinn of the Rocky Point Historical Society  included Ken Blinn, Jr., Mariana Freeman, John Galietti, Natalie Aurucci-Stiefel and Bruce Stiefel of the Historical Society; Neil Heft and Dick Pan of the Radio Central Amateur Radio Club; and, Joe Padovan of the Vincent P. Landi Sons of Italy Lodge.

 

The Rocky Point Historical Society received a Suffolk County Grant to continue restoration of windows and roof of the Marconi building.

 

 

Letter from Marchesa Marconi

 

In 1972, Guglielmo Marconi’s widow, Marchesa Maria Cristina Marconi, sent a hand-written letter to Rosario Aurucci of Rocky Point who repaired the badly deteriorated Marconi building. The letter indicated that Marconi considered the building a “precious relic”.

 

                                                                                          January 15, 1972 - Rome, Italy

Dear. Mr. Rosario Aurucci,

I received your gracious and important letter of January 3rd as regards to the Guglielmo      Marconi wireless transmitting office.  I well remember having visited it.  It is a precious relic   because Guglielmo Marconi considered it to be one of the early radio stations that he erected and used in the United States. I am very grateful and thankful to you for having kept this very important building alive and cherished and I am truly moved as well as pleased to be informed abut this dear memory.  Thanking you for how much you have done and will do for my dear husband, I offer you my sincere and affectionate greetings and those of my daughter, Electra, for the coming New Year.

 

                                                                                                      Maria Cristina Marconi

 

ACTIVITIES AT THE HISTORIC RADIO BUILDING

 

 

In 1987 the Rocky Point School Eric Trojahn Memorial Amateur Radio Club, under the direction of Henry Bookout, operated the first wireless transmission from the building since the days when Marconi worked the building when the century was young.  Mr. Bookout, teacher,  was responsible for forming a student Amateur Radio Club at the Rocky Point School. 

 

Each year the Members of Radio Central Amateur Radio Club transmit and receive national and international messages from the little Marconi wireless building, which is located in front of the Frank J. Carasiti School in Rocky Point. They operate at the Marconi Radio Shack on the weekend closest to Guglielmo Marconi’s birthday of March 25th which is known as “International Marconi Day”,  as well as on the weekend closest to November 5th, which is the anniversary of the opening of the RCA Radio Central Transmitting Station in Rocky Point.

 

During the Spring of 2007 the Radio Central Amateur Radio Club hosted three days of radio history tours and Morse code demonstrations  for the students of the Frank J. Carasiti School of the Marconi Building, with the suggestion of Elementary School teacher, David Falcone.

 

The Long Island Wireless Historical Society has placed several archival photographs inside the building. These were recently permanently framed by the Radio Central ARC.

 

The Rocky Point Historical Society continues to place historic displays at the four schools in Rocky Point.  A tribute to Guglielmo Marconi on the anniversary of his 130th birthday was made by an exhibit at the local schools.

 

Each year Boy Scout Troup #244 and amateur radio operators train and transmit messages from the building on Scouts Jamboree On The Air Day.