Navy Radio Transmitter Facility (NAVRADTRANSFAC) Chollas Heights
Chollas Heights is located on the 73-acre site of the former Naval Radio Transmitting Facility just north of Marketplace at the Grove (the former College Grove Shopping Center), in Southeast San Diego, California. The neighborhood consists of 412 two, three and four-bedroom attached homes. With tile roofs, whitewashed walls and earth tones, the homes have an overall character reminiscent of traditional Spanish-style California bungalows. Amenities include numerous "tot lots," a joint-use multi-purpose field, basketball courts, picnic areas and a jogging/pedestrian path around the perimeter of the site. The project is nicely landscaped and similar in appearance to a typical quality, upscale, master-planned community in the San Diego area.
In addition to the new homes and amenities, historic facilities on the site will be adapted under an agreement between the Navy, California State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, with the concurrence of the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) and the Eastern Area Planning Committee.
On 21 July 1914 the Navy purchased about 75 acres for the facility. The purpose of the station was to provide reliable radio communication with the fleet at sea, as well as other shore radio stations in the Naval Communications System. The construction of the three towers, each 660 feet high, started in February 1915, and completed on January 26, 1916. Each of the self-supporting towers supported a nearly invisible triatic wire antenna array that was used for low-frequency transmissions. The facility was commissioned on January 26, 1917. When it was operational, the station broadcast its signals at 200,000 watts, making it for a time the most powerful transmitter in the world.
The Naval Radio Transmitting Facility (NRTF), as it was officially designated, became a fixture in San Diego's landscape, and earned for itself a place in the city's heritage. Its first Morse-code message was tapped out on a silver key fabricated in the shop of renowned San Diego jeweler and civic leader Joseph Jessop in 1917. A generation later, due to technical circumstances, the Chollas Heights station was used to inform both the Pacific Fleet and naval headquarters of the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941.
Long a part of a naval communications network that covered the globe, the station was closed down since 1992. The navy's announcement in 1994 of its intention to demolish the station indicated that the Navy Department decided that a 412-unit residential development for sailors and their families would fill a more pressing need. Thus the Navy dismantled the three historic transmitting towers that were part of the U.S. Navy transmitting facility at Chollas Heights. Other antennas on the site, included conical monopoles, and log-periodic beams were also removed and scrapped.