The Route 128 tower complex

It's not Philadelphia's Roxborough farm, or LA's Mount Wilson, or San Francisco's Mt. San Bruno, but it is the largest concentration of broadcast power in the Boston area.

The towers that dot the landscape near Rt. 128 and Rt. 9 in the Needham/Newton area first began to go up in the late 1950s. WBZ-TV came first, in 1957, when they built a thousand-foot tower on Cedar Street in Needham. The tower replaced a temporary facility in Malden that had been in use since Hurricane Carol toppled the original WBZ-TV transmitter at the Brighton studios in 1954. WHDH-TV 5 built its tower at about the same time, a bit to the southeast on Chestnut Street in Newton. This was the original WHDH-TV facility. WNAC-TV 7 followed in the early 60s, moving from their original site in Malden to a new, self-supporting tower on Tower Road off Needham Street in Newton. The last of the towers, a 1000+ foot candelabra, went up circa 1971. From its outset, the tower carried WSBK-TV 38 (moving from the Prudential Center downtown) and WKBG-TV 56 (now WLVI, moved from Zion Hill in Woburn). A trade publication advertisement for the tower also listed ``WREP-TV 25'' as a tenant. That construction permit was never built -- in fact, a steel pipe was installed in its ``tine'' of the candelabra. A new CP was issued several years later for WXNE-TV on that channel; the station signed on from the candelabra in 1977.

All four towers still stand. Here are brief descriptions:

CBS tower
	  (thumbnail) FM-128
	  (thumbnail) UHF Candelabra (top)
	  (thumbnail) WHDH-TV tower
CBS FM-128 UHF Candelabra WHDH-TV

The CBS tower is at 350 Cedar Street. It is the only tower west of Route 128. It now carries, in addition to WBZ-TV:

The CBS tower was extensively reconstructed during the summer of 2000. Before the work began, each station had its own individual antenna, in the following order (from top to bottom): WBZ-TV, WGBX-TV, WGBH-TV, WCVB, WCVB-DT.

The tower once carried WBZ-FM 106.7, but that station moved to the Prudential Center when WBZ sold it in 1981 and it became WMJX. It also carried WCRB 102.5 until November 1998 when WCRB's space was needed for digital television.

There is also a very short backup tower on the site that can keep WBZ-TV on the air should the main tower be unusable.

The former WHDH-TV tower on Chestnut Street in Newton is now known as American Tower Corp.'s Newton tower -- colloquially ``FM-128'' -- and is a primary FM site for the Boston market. Where the channel 5 antenna once sat, at the top of the tower, is a master antenna installed a few years ago. FM-128 carries WBUR 90.9 (side-mounted, directional); WJMN 94.5 (the former WHDH-FM, which went up on the tower when it was built); WBMX 98.5 (the former WNAC-FM/WRKO-FM/WROR, which transmitted from the channel 7 tower when it and channel 7 were co-owned, until 1980); WODS 103.3 (side-mounted); and WCRB 102.5. WBMX holds a construction permit to move to the UHF Candelabra. The antennas are in the following order (from top to bottom): WCRB, WBMX, WJMN, WBUR, WODS. WBOS used to use the master antenna, but has since moved to the Pru.

The UHF Candelabra (officially ``American Tower Corp., Needham'') is located south of Highland Avenue in Needham, at 140-145 Cabot Street, behind the Sheraton Needham hotel. It carries WFXT 25, WSBK 38, and WLVI 56; WBMX 98.5 has a construction permit to move there.

The lone self-supporting tower, and the shortest, is WHDH-TV 7's tower on Tower Road, just north of Needham Street. Channel 7 is the sole user of this site. It once carried 98.5 FM (WNAC-FM/WRKO/WROR), until RKO lost its licenses and had to sell the radio station in the 1980s. The channel 7 tower is owned by channel 7's licensee corporation, WHDH-TV Inc.

The Boston Radio Archives