Press Club

Arlington, The Birthplace of Radio (Sort Of)

You may not realize it, but Arlington was once home to the biggest, baddest radio towers in the world.

The U.S. Navy Radio Station was built in 1910 on what is now Columbia Pike, overlooking the nation’s capital. The 600-foot high, 100,000 watt towers were monsters, able to transmit signals much farther than your standard AM or FM broadcast today.

The Navy Radio Station was the place where the term “radio” was first used to describe wireless voice transmissions. The towers also relayed the first successful overseas radio telephone message.

But perhaps the most dubious distinction came in 1916, when the towers were used to relay the results of the U.S. presidential election overseas. The transmission was heard around the world. Unfortunately, as this clip from a documentary celebrating Columbia Pike’s bicentennial explains, they got one important detail wrong.

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