On June 25, 2006 we were guests of Rick Walsh of ClearChannel Radio at the West peak of Meriden Mountain, to visit a historic building and radio tower built in 1936 by my grandfather, Franklin M Doolittle. He was one of the original radio pioneers with many "firsts", inventions and patents. At this location his broadcasting company conducted early experiments in FM broadcasting, and decades of commercial AM & FM. WDRC-FM (Doolittle Radio Corporation's FM station) transmitted out of this facility until relocating to a newer building on the same lot. For more on the Doolittle story and radio history, visit www.WDRCOBG.com
Lydia (Doolittle) Johnson with sons Pete (L) and Paul (R) at historic W1XSL transmitter building and freestanding mast antenna, erected 1936 by her father, Franklin M Doolittle. (Photo snapped by Rick Walsh)
Lydia Johnson with Rick Walsh of ClearChannel, our tour guide and "Master of the Mountain" or at least it's technology!
W1SXL transmitter building as it appeared in 1930's. Photo courtesy www.wdrcobg.com which has extensive collection of WDRC-FM and Doolittle radio photos, documents and history.
W1SXL transmitter building as it appears June 2006.
The 90-foot mast still stands, but is no longer used. Meriden Mountain is now covered with high-tech antennas and equipment.
Detail of front of building and modern tower. (Towers don't really lean, it's the wide angle lens!) Not far to the right, the mountain drops hundreds of feet, with rocky cliffs and steep slopes to the valley below.
Details... Ice shield over slate roof, blocked-off window, and hardware which held original phone line (seen in 1930's photo - the line ran up the cliffs from the base of the mountain)
Detail of ice shield installed over slate roof. As modern towers were built overhead, ice would crash down and damage the roof. These panels prevent damage and are grounded for RF shield... and perhaps lightning?
Looking straight up the new tower
Back of original bldg. All windows have been bricked over, and section at far end (starting at last door) was added on.
Tourguide Rick (responsible for the facility since 1979), and Lydia who remembers it from the old days, exchange details about old and new.
Walking to the door, on the rear side of the building. Rick holds historic photos from WDRCOBG.COM
Stepping inside. Was that father's car parked in front of the building?
Some of the equipment currently operating on the first floor
Past some modern equipment, we enter the time machine. Old woodwork, and stairs to the 2nd floor which was for resident staff and had a broadcast booth in olden days.
Note on the wall from 1986. Telephone upstairs is mentioned - see next photo!
"the phone upstairs on the left"
Pete tries the phone... disconnected long ago
The upstairs kitchen (phone from previous shot is just out of frame to the left)
Hand-operated water pump at the sink. A tank downstairs still holds water.
Old refrigerator across from the sink
Refrigerator is a Crosley "Shelvador"
Pete looks inside... nothing appetizing.
The other 3/4 of the upstairs space. This was once living/sleeping space, now used for storage.
Rick points to a line on the wall where a countertop once served as a DJ and announcer's station (1960's or 70's?)
Back downstairs... another part of first floor which is now used for storage
The vertical line at right shows where this portion was added to the original structure. Modern equipment is housed here. The current tower rises behind the building.
This is the added space. Rick is the engineer responsible for all the equipment. He built all the bright copper "plumbing" overhead which actually carries high-power radio signals to antennas on the modern tower.
Rick with some of the equipment. This looks pretty high-tech!
Vintage Contental Electronics racks. Love the logo.
Detail of Contental Electronics logo on a piece of equipment.
Here's the real high-tech gear. All digital (note the color LCD displays and USB jump drive). All can be controlled remotely. A far cry from the experimental 1936 equipment first installed in this building, and the need for a live-in engineer!
Close-up of some of the all-digital equipment. The equivalent of many guages compacted into a tiny space yet easy to read.
More ultra high-tech radio equipment. This piece does something important for WHCN-FM.
We prepare to leave. The "Steam" marking on the copper pipe is Rick's joke. The arrows show the direction the signal travels to the antenna.
Closing up. Lydia and Rick read the signs on the door while Pete takes a final photo.
100 feet away, as we walk out: Rick and Lydia in front of current WDRC-FM transmitter & tower
Rick, Lydia and Pete walk back to cars. Current WDRC-FM transmitter at left, original building and mast behind & to right of brown structure & tower.
On the East Peak of Meriden Mountain... Castle Craig. Note that the East Peak is the highest point within 25 miles of the Atlantic from Maine to Florida.
Castle Craig. The tower looms in the gloom as we walk up. Just as we reached it, the skies opened up with torrential rain!
Peering out from within the tower. The rain started moments later.