Aug 28

Commissioning the Otter Cliffs Radio Station, 28 August 1917

Saturday, August 28, 2010 12:01 AM


On 28 August 1917, the Navy commissioned a long-distance radio station at Otter Cliffs, on Mt. Desert Island, Maine. The station was the project of Alessandro Fabbri, a sportsman and inventor who was an early devotee of the then-new field of long distance radio communications. After World War I began, Fabbri cleared the site, built the station, and offered it to the Navy on the condition that he be commissioned and placed in charge. The Navy agreed, and the station’s first officer in charge was Ensign Fabbri, United States Naval Reserve Force.

The station’s isolation from radio noise and location far up the East Coast made it the best site in the Navy for trans-Atlantic communications. After the war the station continued in service, and then-Lieutenant Fabbri was awarded the Navy Cross for his service. Tragically, Fabbri died of pneumonia in 1922 at age 44.

The station continued in use into the 1930s, but the buildings were not maintained and eventually became an eyesore. A number of interested citizens, including John D. Rockefeller, Jr. asked the Navy to have the buildings removed, but the station was too important to consider closing it. The Navy did agree, however, that if Rockefeller could identify and outfit a similarly useful site somewhere within fifty miles of Otter Cliffs, the Navy would turn over the Otter Cliffs facility to him. He would then donate the site to Acadia National Park once the buildings were removed.

Rockefeller agreed, and built a new station to the tip of Schoodic Peninsula about five miles away. The buildings at Otter Cliffs were demolished and the property donated to Acadia National Park. A plaque commemorating the service of Alessandro Fabbri can still be seen there.

The new radio station was commissioned in 1935. After several name changes it ended up as Naval Security Group Activity Winter Harbor. NSGA Winter Harbor was disestablished in 2002, and the Schoodic Peninsula property was turned over to the National Park Service.

  • Anthony John Spatafore CTRC RET.

    I was stationed at USNAVRADSTA Winter Harbor from 9/55 to 9/57. Winter Harbor was know as a short timers station. However, a lot of the sailors reenlisted and married local girls. I was assigned to the facility at Corea. I enjoyed my two years at Winter Harbor. The people were very friendly.

    Anthony J Spatafore