FWD: 3 Navy towers gone from skyline

gentges@itd.nrl.navy.mil gentges@itd.nrl.navy.mil
Sun, 14 Nov 1999 08:32:26 -0500 (EST)

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Headline: 3 Navy towers gone from skyline
Subhead: Radio transmitters made obsolete by new technology

By Tim Craig


John Schorpp,manager of the Navy radio station towers

A Navy band sounded colors, the U.S. flag was raised, and three 
300-foot-tall radio towers came crashing down yesterday at the 
Naval Academy in Annapolis in a matter of seconds.

 The towers -- a landmark for sailors and tourists -- fell victim 
to the changing world of telecommunications, as satellites and 
other wireless communication eclipsed their usefulness.

 "They raised the flag, and within a minute -- kaboom, kaboom, 
kaboom -- down came the towers," said John Schorpp, the 
only employee at the Navy radio station since it closed in 1996. 
"It was really a strange sight seeing all those towers lying 
on their side."

 The demolition was the first of three planned for 13 of the 
Navy's 16 red-and-white steel towers, built on Greenbury 
Point in 1918 to provide communications to military ships.

Since the closing of the station, Schorpp has maintained and 
managed the radio towers, including a nonmilitary responsibility 
-- watching the 20 or so osprey families that nested in the towers 

 "Those osprey nests were destroyed when those towers came 
down," Schorpp said. "But luckily the birds have migrated 
until March."

 Schorpp joined 80 other people -- including Navy dignitaries, 
members of the media and Annapolis residents -- to watch the 
demolition, but there was little cheering.

 "I heard a few oohs and aahs," Schorpp said. "But 
some people were sad because it was the passing of an era."

JoAnn Johnson of the Annapolis neighborhood of Brownswoods met 
her husband, Howard, at the installation in the early 1970s when 
she worked as a tower radiowoman and he worked as a wildlife 
manager on the 231-acre wildlife preserve on the site.

 Although Johnson left the Navy after four years, her husband, 
who later become an antenna mechanic, worked at the site for 
22 years until he died in 1997, Schorpp said.

 "They met there, had three kids, and now she was there 
for the grand finale," Schorpp said.

 Richard Kellard, another former employee who attended the occasion, 
was the towers' radioman on Dec. 7, 1941, when the transmission 
came that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor.

 The government bought the property -- where the Wright brothers 
had earlier flown experimental airplanes -- in 1909. It was the 
Naval Air Station until 1917, when it became the U.S. Naval Radio 
Station, Annapolis, with the construction of the first towers. 
The towers were built to send signals to Europe, where they were 
picked up by antennas on the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

 Later the number of towers was increased, and the radio signals 
left Greenbury Point for U.S. forces in World War II and Cold 
War-era nuclear submarines. But radio technology, e-mail, satellite 
and microwave communications made them obsolete.

 Despite pressure from developers who wanted to build on the 
site, the Navy transferred the property to the Naval Academy 
in 1994. Academy officials have vowed to preserve the point.

"The environmental refuge will remain that way; it will 
be a preserve," said Commander Mike Brady, spokesman for 
the Naval Academy.

 Hiking trails are planned, and contractors have offered to build 
nesting boxes for the ospreys.

 Three small towers will remain standing, possibly to be contracted 
to private businesses, but Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, 
in Baltimore County, will take down an 800-foot tower about next 
weekend. Two smaller towers will be taken down manually.

 "The big show is December 5 when six 600-foot towers and 
one 1,200-foot tower come down," Schorpp said.


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