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Alpine Tower Edward Howard Armstrong

Edwin H. Armstrong
(FM Radio Inventor)


The Alpine Tower is a unique landmark located on the Hudson River palisades in Alpine, New Jersey. Built in 1937 by the late Major Edwin Howard Armstrong, the inventor of FM (frequency modulation), the tower was used as an experimental facility and relay station for the development of FM. The 400-foot self-supporting tower sits at a ground elevation of 520 feet, giving it an impressive 920-foot overall height to the top arm. The height to the top of the highest antenna is 425 feet. The design of the tower, with its three 150-foot arms (initially conceived to give vertical and horizontal separation for FM transmission antennas), is ideal for the co-location of directional and omni-directional antennas of all types. The tower is owned and operated by The Alpine Tower Company, a privately held company.

Armstrong built the tower after being told to remove his equipment from the Empire State Building where he had begun trial FM transmissions. His former friend and business partner, David Sarnoff - chairman of RCA, had initially supported Armstrong’s efforts to try to eliminate static from radio but turned against him when he realized that FM was a threat to his AM empire, since it represented an entirely new system of broadcasting. Besides, Sarnoff needed the room at Empire for his experiments on television, which he thought would one day replace all of radio.

The facility occupies 15 acres of land west of route 9W and north of where Armstrong’s boyhood home stood at 1032 Warburton Avenue in Yonkers, New York (now an apartment building). As a teenager, the young radio pioneer would cross the river to string antenna wires from the palisades to improve the reception of distant signals.

During WWII the site was used as a radar facility. A 100-foot self-supporting tower was constructed on the site, which had two copper mesh dish antennas that rotated on a turntable at the top. Following Armstrong’s death in 1954, Columbia University maintained the site until it was sold in the late 1960s. Columbia did not have a use for the tower and the new owner did not know what to do with it.

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