The story behind Edmonds Community College's relay station

Buildings razed at EdCC used by Army for wartime communications
By Betty Lou Gaeng | Sep 18, 2017
Photo by: Brian Soergel

Two buildings recently razed at Edmonds CC were originally used by the Army during World War II.

 

The other day, when the bus I was on pulled into the passenger loading zone at Edmonds Community College, I was surprised to see that the two historic and familiar houses left over from WWII had been torn down.

Only the chimney stacks stood to mark the spot. Even though I knew it was coming, I still had a sad feeling. My thoughts were of the time when I was young and living close by, as this land became a major part of our country’s heavily guarded defense system during World War II.

Since very few people seem to know the correct and more complete history of the Lynnwood property before the founding of Edmonds Community College, and with another change underway, it seems to be a good time to tell the story of the land before its days as a college.

Of great interest to locals was the May 16, 1930, edition of the Edmonds Tribune-Review. It reported that Globe Wireless Ltd., a company owned by Robert Dollar & Co., had purchased 15 acres of land 2.5 miles east of Edmonds to build another of its powerful, globe-spanning wireless radio receiving stations.

The history of the Dollar Shipping Line shows that, in addition to the Edmonds area station and the company’s first wireless station built in 1928 at Mussel Rock off the coast of California near Daly City, Globe Wireless had stations located in New York, Honolulu, Guam, Manila and Asia.

Earlier, the shipping company had some problems with the Federal Communication Commission as to whether as a private company Dollar could operate radio stations. In order to follow a 1930 ruling by the FCC, Dollar Shipping Lines’ communication system entered the radio communication field commercially under the name Globe Wireless Ltd.

In 1930, Winthrop Murray Hammond arrived from California to manage the local Globe Wireless station. Hammond was experienced in both radio and telegraphy, skills learned during his 14 years in the Navy. Hammond and his family became active and well-liked residents of Edmonds for several years.

The successful Dollar Shipping Line had long been known as the main shipping line for the United States. Much of the timber from local forested land was transported to faraway ports by the ships the company owned.

But in 1938, during the Great Depression, the company collapsed under heavy financial troubles. Dollar Shipping Line and its subsidiaries, such as Globe Wireless Ltd., were taken over by the federal government, and its assets were used to establish the operating company American President Lines.

In 1941, when war seemed imminent, the federal government realized that with its ownership of the Edmonds-area Globe Wireless property, it had acquired a radio station – a perfect beginning for the country’s important defense communication system with Alaska.

It wasn’t long before Army trucks and troops appeared in this small rural corner of south Snohomish County, just a short distance up the hill from downtown Edmonds.

There are probably not too many of us left who remember when the government established the U.S. Army’s Northwest Relay and Radio Receiving Station as part of its WWII communication system with Alaska.

Actually, ownership of the Globe Wireless property wasn’t enough for the government – in order to operate under the blanket of secrecy, it needed more land. Thus, condemnation proceeding of adjoining home sites and small farms began.

Several families, such as the large and well-established Burfitt family, were displaced and left to find new homes. When eminent domain legal work was final, the Army held ownership of 100 acres of land for the country’s vital wartime defense system. For the history buffs who wish to know more of the even earlier history of this portion of Lynnwood, records show that the 100 acres had its beginnings as part of the 160-acre homestead issued in 1888 to Luke Greenstreet by the Bureau of Land Management.

The war finally came to an end in 1945. The world changed, and by 1965 the federal government had declared the radio relay and receiving station property as surplus. In 1967, 50 acres of the site were transferred to Edmonds Community College.

More modern and useful structures will no doubt soon fill the void left by the razing of two seemingly unimportant old structures at Lynnwood’s popular college.

It is left for a few of the old-time residents to remember the last remnants of another era, when the whole world was immersed in a terrible war and we had an important part of our country’s defense system right at our back door.

Editor’s note: According to Edmonds Community College, Glacier and Pilchuck halls were declared to be non-historical and were torn down to make space for additional parking in anticipation of a new Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) building.

 

 

 

 

 

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