Published in The Coast Star on November 8, 2001
The first exhibit to be opened was a photo retrospective which focuses on an early decade of Camp Evans history, titled “Wall’s Marconi Station: 1912-1925.” The new exhibit features a room full of enlarged, historic photos of the Camp Evans facility from its beginnings as a node in a world-wide wireless network.
The photo display is housed in the former Marconi Wireless Station Manager’s residence on Marconi Road. Volunteers staffed the center and opened it to the public on several consecutive weekends this fall, including Oct. 27 as part of National Make a Difference Day in Wall Township. Mr. Carl said that InfoAge tries to staff the center every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., but added they also open on special request.
Much is yet to be done at Camp Evans, but Mr. Carl said that InfoAge and Wall Township have waited a virtual eternity for the Camp Evans properties to be transferred from the U.S. Army, and they didn’t want to wait longer for a momentous grand opening with everything renovated, fitted, polished, and under township jurisdiction. The new center is a work in progress, Mr. Carl explained, “but we said, ‘Let’s put the sign out and see what happens.”‘
The new center has already attracted attention. Mr. Carl reports that about 12 new InfoAge members have signed on at the center since it opened.
The organization, which is a coalition of non-profit groups such as the New Jersey Science Teachers Association, the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the New Jersey Historical Divers Association, and several radio clubs, dedicates itself to preserving New Jersey’s “information age” history.But turning the 1914 Marconi building into an interpretive museum rife with historic photographs is just the first of InfoAge’s efforts to creatively reuse the old Camp Evans buildings. The organization also has jurisdiction over two buildings at the Project Diana site, as well as a 60-foot radar antenna.
Project Diana heralded in space-age communications, Mr. Carl noted. “It proved that satellite communication was possible whereas some people thought it was impossible.”
Within a year, the Marconi Hotel across the street will be transferred to Wall Township and InfoAge, and later the World War II radar facilities.
Camp Evans has a long and rich history as a site for communications research and operation, Mr. Carl noted. From the early “pioneers of radio” to the “heroes of World War II” to the “heroes at the end of the Cold War,” Mr. Carl says, Camp Evans has seen a lot of action.
Still, he says, much of the information on what has happened at Camp Evans while under military control remains in the National Archives as “classified” information. Mr. Carl and members of InfoAge are continually requesting that information to be declassified, as they piece together the tortuous history of what was a hotbed of activity in computer, radio, radar, communications, electronics, and satellite history.
Mr. Carl pointed out Camp Evans’ historical involvement as an important reason for its preservation. The facility was involved in tracking Sputnik, plotting out the first lunar landing, and detecting planes speeding towards Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. **web-edit–> I confused the reporter in below paragraph. The Pearl harbor radar was designed by the engineers of Camp Evans in 1936-1939 at Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook NJ. They were moving to Camp Evans in December 1941 when the attack occured. The actual SCR-270 unit that detected the incoming planes was in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.
Although the state-of-the-art technology in place at Camp Evans detected planes 50 minutes before they struck Pearl Harbor on that infamous day, Mr. Carl noted, recently declassified information shows that the military’s failure to recognize or act on the warning was due to improper staffing at the facility at the time.
Mr. Carl envisions preserving all of these historic buildings, retrieving their histories from the National Archives, and using them to house further exhibits and events. Much of the space will be given over to hands-on exhibits and space to host class field trips, he says. Member organizations will also have space to display antique radios or hold meetings and educational programs.
Mr. Carl says that the new historic district at Camp Evans will give Wall Township “a Liberty Science Center that’s not so far away, and that’s housed in historic buildings.”
“We are working with Wall Township to preserve this historic site and give it an exciting, historically appropriate, educational reuse,” Mr. Carl said.
Moreover, Mr. Carl noted, the township is getting an incredible bargain. Between the prime real estate and historic value of the Camp Evans facilities, all transferred to InfoAge and the township free-of-charge, he said, “We have a heck of a headstart.”
Those interested in finding out more about InfoAge should log on to out www.infoage.org.
After this article was published in November 2001 the Fort Monmoth BRAC office called to inform us that our licence to use this building permitted us to use the building for office space and storage, not as a museum. We were told we could not put up a sign or hold public events. Why the BRAC legal advisers would take the time and expense to worry about the activities of a not-for-profit trying to save Army and Signal Corps history is beyond my comprehension. We kept a low profile after this.
We figured the property would be transfered in 2002 and we would not have the BRAC legal office to worry about. We tried another event in July 2002 which resulted in another threat to cancel our license to use the building. In July of 2003 the license was updated to allow Museum Activities and to allow us to paint selected buildings.
Paid federal employees creating hurdles for volunteers for no valid reason. I guess this provides the BRAC legal team some sick form of entertaiment while at work.
It is now January 2004, the electric power was just restored a few days ago. The project was to replace an electrical substation. It was planned during 2001 and 2002. It was scheduled to start in March of 2003 for a two week duration. Finally in October 2003 the power went off, until January. If Congressman Smith’s office did not ‘encourage’ persons to complete the work, we would have heavy duty damage to the buildings heat and plumbing from the below zero weather.
Sadly the property has not been transfered and the BRAC legal office has not gone away.
page created January 10, 2004