Published in The Coast Star on July 17, 2003
When Edward Henderson was 29, photography was just a sideline interest.
Of course at that time, the hobby took a different form than it does today, said his son, Russell Henderson. The year was 1914, and the technology behind picture-taking hadn’t progressed to modern levels.
“I had [in storage] all these pictures on glass plates, because that’s what he was using then,” said Mr. Henderson.
A few of Edward Henderson’s pictures were eventually published, and printed on postcards. Countless more remain in his son’s home, where they have been for decades.
“He took a lot of farm pictures – pictures of farm houses. He has pictures of streams, and damns and other things from Wall Township. ”
But five of those pictures have special significance for Wall.
It was around that same year that a wireless communications station – known as the Marconi Station, and later as Camp Evans – was built to accompany another identical building in New Brunswick. The two buildings served to facilitate communications with troops overseas.
“My father, being a local boy, was interested [in the station]. At the time, he knew all the men working there,” Mr. Henderson said.
Under the direction of Fred Carl, the director of the InfoAge learning center at camp Evans, giant reproductions of some of those pictures have been made, and have been donated to the township.
“We’ll see that we get them framed and hung around the town hall,” said Wall Township Administrator Joseph Verruni at a meeting of the township committee last week.
Mr. Henderson said the glass plate photographs have stayed remarkably well preserved, as have most others in his father’s aging collection.
“My dad was very particular. With each of the photographs, he had written the date, the aperture, whether it was cloudy or clear – just anything you might want to know,” Mr. Henderson said.
Township Committee members said the newly donated pictures of the Marconi station appear to be the oldest available.
In one, Edward Henderson can be seen in his driveway, south of Belmar Boulevard. A wireless mast is in the background. The shot was taken on Jan 14, 1914.
In another, the mast and a line of utility poles fill the night sky. Materials from InfoAge also note the moon, seen in the picture, would in 1946 be used to reflect radar waves sent from and received at the Marconi Station. No date had been provided for the shot.
In one tall shot, five of the six 100-foot masts can be seen. There is also a service team and person near the base of the closest mast. The shot was taken on March 23, 1914. In another undated picture, depicting an open field, three of the masts can be seen.
On April 12, 1914, Edward Henderson took a picture from across the Shark River showing all five of the station’s fireproof buildings, as well as all six masts. The top portion of a 150-foot balancing tower seen in the picture has since been saved by Wall Township, and placed on Marconi Road.
The buildings depicted in the pictures have a long history, according to materials from InfoAge:
In 1913, the New Brunswick station was the world’s most powerful wireless transmission station, a key link in the world’s first wire-less network. The Navy seized and operated it during World War I.
Both the New Brunswick and Camp Evans Marconi stations were constructed at the same time, with identical building materials. Technology at the time required that the Camp Evans stationreceive signals, and the New Brunswick station transmit them.
The technology behind the twin stations was enough to entice Albert Einstein to visit the New Brunswick station in 1921. Until 1952 it had six radio towers.
A pioneer in early radio, Guglielmo Marconi, built the New Brunswick station from investments in his wireless business after the sinking of the Titanic. The crew of the doomed ocean liner had used Marconi’s wireless system to radio for help, bringing his company into the national spotlight.
The station was linked by telegraph to its larger sister reception station in Wall Township.
Unlike the station at Camp Evans – which in recent years was declared a historic district by the state of New Jersey – the New Brunswick has become a storage facility. The Camp Evans site has remained the property of the federal government, while the New Brunswick facility is now privately owned.
Using several tons of materials from the New Brunswick station, volunteers have been working to restore the Wall station. It serves as a hands-on historic learning center with a focus on both modern and traditional technologies.
page created August 14, 2003