Ocean County Town Seeks Grant Money For AT&T Building

The old AT&T building is a historic building but has seen better days. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  BERKELEY – The old AT&T building had been extremely useful in its day, but now officials are trying to figure out if there’s any modern uses for it.

  The township recently applied for grant money that would pay for planning and remediation of the property.

  In 1929, it was a short-wave transmission station for overseas communication. Nearby was a field of 493 wooden poles and 19 metal antennae. It had been instrumental in the coordination of the Normandy invasion in 1944, historians had said.

  Now, it’s little more than a shell.

  The two-story reinforced concrete building sits in the swamps of Good Luck Point on Bayview Avenue. It used to be near the “telephone pole farm” but those came down years ago, except for ones that were used for osprey nests.

  It’s been vandalized, and there’s been 8-10 feet of water in the basement since Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Carmen Amato said.

  He referred to it as an “attractive nuisance,” a term officials use when describing a location where people are likely to go just to cause trouble and do something illegal. Also, it is dangerous and people could get hurt going there.

  U.S. Fish and Wildlife bought the surrounding area but the federal government didn’t want the building, township planner James Oris said. It belongs to Berkeley. The town worked with the state to figure out how to use the site.

  If the township wins a grant, the money would be spent to investigate what can be done with the building, Oris said.

Photo by Chris Lundy

  In the past, it was mainly used for commercial shipping, but it also provided wartime support. It broadcasted the “Voice of America” through the World War II years.

  A newspaper article from 1930 reported that the average elevation of the 175-acre site was about 18 inches above the water mark. The ground was soft for about three feet, but under that was an “underlying stratum of hard-pan” that required dynamite for excavation.

  This building, even though it was in Berkeley, was named after neighboring Ocean Gate. It was only a transmitter. The other transmitter was in Lawrenceville. Ship-to-shore messages were sent to a receiver in a 292-acre tract of marsh in Forked River. There was another in Manahawkin.

  According to Long-Lines.net, this station was a high-frequency (shortwave) radio transmitting station providing telephone communications to ships at sea (high-seas service) and to overseas locations, under callsign WOO. In addition, the June 1958 List of Coast Stations issued by the International Telecommunications Union identifies Ocean Gate Radio (WOO) as “open to correspondence with aircraft,” one of 19 US coast stations so authorized.

Photo by Chris Lundy

  As satellites became a more viable form of communication, short-wave radio became less of a concern. In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission authorized AT&T to discontinue high-seas service from this building.

  The surrounding area is now a wildlife refuge owned by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.