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December 11, 2011 Bauhaus, Modern Snapshot

Modern Snapshot: Bauhaus WTOP Transmitter Station in Wheaton

I have driven by the WTOP Transmitter Building in Wheaton too many times to count.  Always rushing somewhere, I never actually got out of the car to take a look and take a picture of this Bauhaus building on University Boulevard that was once featured in Architectural Record. I finally did today and here is what I found from the Montgomery County Planning Board:

“Marking a new era of communication technology in Montgomery County, the WTOP Transmitter Building is a rare and bold example of International Style. Washington architect E. Burton Corning  designed the facility in 1939 and it was completed early in 1940.  The transmitter, historically known as WJSV, had a cutting-edge design with a distinctive sculptural quality, lack of ornamentation, and stark simplicity that are hallmarks of the International Style that was virtually unknown in Montgomery County. Influence of the Art Moderne, popular in this era, is evident in curving, streamline surfaces and the use of glass block. Architectural Record featured a two-page spread on the WJSV/WTOP Transmitter, in 1941; one year after the radio station began operation.

“Technological advances in radio broadcasting demanded an appropriately futuristic architectural expression. When the WJSV began operating in 1927, the radio station had a 50-watt transmitter, and there were six million families in the nation with radios. In 1939, WJSV announced plans for a new transmitter to broadcast at 50,000 watts, the maximum power the FCC allowed. The nation’s radio families had grown to 27½ million. WJSV was the principal station for the Columbia Broadcasting System and the Washington area’s most powerful broadcasting station. The station’s call letters were changed in 1943 to WTOP, representing the slogan “The Station at the Top of the Dial.” WTOP is one of the oldest radio stations in the country. The station continues to be broadcast from this facility, operated remotely from offices in Northwest Washington.”

See what you can learn when you stop and smell the roses.

0 comments Post a Comment

  1. Cecille — December 12, 2011 @ 12:17 am         Reply

    à la Villa Savoye, no? Never knew this existed. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Karl — December 12, 2011 @ 9:44 am         Reply

    There was a website that no longer appears to be up which hosted relatively recent photos of the interior of the WTOP transmitter building. Fortunately I was able to use the Wayback Machine to find an archive of the page:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20050310215024/http://www.dcrtv.org/photo/wtop.html

    Not sure how long ago these were taken, but it appears that the place is/was a time machine.

    A bit of trivia: in its former life, WTOP was a KKK-owned radio station. The call letters JSV were the initials of a KKK Grand Wizard in Virginia.

    http://dcmemories.com/wjsv/WJSVHistory.html

  3. Mid-Century Mike — December 15, 2011 @ 8:23 pm         Reply

    Thanks for links and info Karl.

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