Tuckerton Historical Society and the Tuckerton Wireless

Oct 15, 2013
Courtesy of: Tuckerton Historical Society Tuckerton Wireless Tower

The most mysterious thing about Mystic Island in Little Egg Harbor Township is the three big, concrete cubes that look like military bunkers. The 20- by 20-foot concrete structures are 24 feet high, and the blocks are buried 20 feet below the ground. They’re so big that it was more cost effective to build roads around them rather than demolish them when the lagoon community of Mystic Island was built.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Tuckerton Historical Society will explain that the concrete bunkers are not bunkers at all but actually served as anchors for the 820-foot antenna built by a German company in 1912 as one of the world’s first transatlantic wireless towers able to transmit radio messages from the United States to Europe.

For the first few years of its use, it was the second tallest manmade structure on Earth, second to the Eiffel Tower.

At the society’s Giffordtown Schoolhouse Museum in Little Egg Harbor on Saturday, local historian Pete Stemmer and genealogist John Yates will give a talk about the construction of the tower, the men who built it, its use and its fascinating history, including the rumor that a message from its German owners may have catapulted the United States into entering World War I.

Stemmer will also talk about the importance of the Tuckerton Railroad in transporting materials to Hickory Island (as it was known then) and speculate on how the concrete was created on site to make the big anchor blocks. There are more anchors throughout the marshland surrounding the turbine and coal-fired steam engine building that still stands on Radio Road (the old factory smoke stack is a clue), and these anchors were for other, smaller antennae, explained Yates.

In addition to the program, the Old Barney Amateur Radio Club will set up a wireless ham radio and make contact with a radio club in Germany. The German club is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its tower, the companion tower to the Tuckerton tower, and even though neither tower is still standing – the Tuckerton tower was demolished in 1955 and the German tower near Hanover was demolished in the 1930s – their mythology and history live on.

The Old Barney club will be at the museum starting at noon; the program begins at 2 p.m. 

The Tuckerton Historical Society’s Giffordtown Museum is the largest depository of Tuckerton Wireless photos and artifacts anywhere, and a photomontage loop on computer will run during the program. In front of the museum on the corner of Leitz Boulevard and Wisteria Lane is a piece of the bottom of the tower; it looks like a giant badminton shuttlecock. 

For more information, call 609-294-1547 or 609-296-2584. —P.J.

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