So here’s the thing about Cincinnati: when there’s one transmitter site in a market that is so historic and spectacular as to be worthy of multiple installments of Site of the Week all by itself, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are also other towers and transmitters worth seeing nearby.
And with our “alternate home base” of Fort Wayne just three hours or so away, we don’t often have reason to make extended visits to the Queen City; instead, Cincinnati seems to be one of those places we see in little bites on the way somewhere else. And so it was, yet again, in the summer of 2010 on a little Midwest excursion with our pals Blaine Thompson of Indiana Radio Watch and Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us. With a typically tight schedule, we had only an afternoon and evening in which to see some Cincy sites – and after finally getting to see WLW under a blue sky, an incoming storm front quickly brought back the gray skies that seem to follow us every time we’re in Hamilton County and vicinity.
But no matter: there were towers to be seen and a few hours in which to see them, and Mike had never been to Cincinnati at all, so off we set to take a quick drive past most of the interesting sites between WLW (way up north in Mason) and downtown Cincinnati.
Our first stop was at a site directly connected to WLW: WSAI (1360) is a sister station under Clear Channel these days, and it was a sister station way back in the Crosley days, too, when it started out at the Mason site before handing that location over to big brother WLW and its superpower plant. After Mason, WSAI made its home on Chickasaw Street north of downtown (we’ll see more about that site in a bit), and since 1940 or thereabouts WSAI has made its 5 kW home at a three-tower array on Daly Road in the Mount Healthy area about nine miles north of downtown Cincinnati.
Moving south on Winton Road from WSAI’s neighborhood brings us to what is easily the second most distinctive tower in Cincinnati.
Every few months, we get an e-mail or a phone call that starts out, “I was driving in Cincinnati (or sometimes Washington, D.C.) when I saw the most unusual-looking tower…what is it?!?”
The answer is: a “Star Tower,” one of a very few built around 1991 by the Landmark tower company. The 956-foot tower got its name from its main tenant, WSTR-TV (Channel 64), and its unusual shape came from pre-stressed steel latticework lifted into place by helicopter.
(Where are the other Star Towers? There’s a big one on Georgia Avenue in northeast Washington, DC, home to WBDC Channel 50 and WCSP 90.1, as well as shorter versions in Roanoke, Virginia and Mesquite, Texas.)
Today, the tower is still home to WSTR-TV (now a MyNetwork affiliate on digital RF 33) and four FM stations: the main transmitters for WREW (94.9), WYGY (97.3) and WGRR (103.5) are here, as well as an aux for WRRM (98.5).
Speaking of auxes, we find a whole bunch of them up on Price Hill, overlooking downtown Cincinnati from the West, about six miles south of the Star Tower. The cliff here was once home to the studio for WSAI and its sister FM station, WSAI-FM (94.1), and that station’s successor, WNNF, is one of the four Clear Channel stations still maintaining aux facilities up here. The Price Hill tower is also home to one main transmitter: Radio One’s WIZF (101.1 Erlanger KY) is up here with its class A signal.
Two more FM/TV sites complete our look at the west side of town: just north of the Price Hill tower, along that same ridgeline, we find the 954-foot guyed tower of Fox affiliate WXIX-TV (Channel 19/RF 29), also home to WRRM’s main site as well as the main transmitter of recent move-in WMOJ (100.3 Norwood) and the aux of sister station WIZF, and to public TV move-in WPTO (Channel 14/RF 28), licensed way up to the northwest in Oxford and operated by Dayton’s WPTD.
And just west of the Star Tower along North Bend Road, we come to the Eden Grove Academy, part of the Pillar of Fire religious group and home to one of their three stations. WAKW (93.3) was the first Pillar of Fire signal to sign on as an FM station, following sister stations KPOF (910) in Denver and WAWZ (1380/99.1) in Zarephath, New Jersey. Since 1958, it’s been broadcasting Christian programming (most recently as “Star 93.3″) from a building on the Eden Grove campus.
And that brings us around to the three big self-supporters that tower over downtown Cincinnati from the north. The westernmost of these is also the newest – but at the site with the longest history. Remember that WSAI was on Chickasaw Street before moving out to Mount Healthy? Turns out Powell Crosley kept the site there, realizing it would be a perfect spot for television – and he built a new self-supporting tower there in 1948 for the debut of WLWT, channel 4. WLWT later moved to channel 5 (and is now on RF 35 in its digital incarnation), and in 1978 its tower ended up on film playing the role of “WKRP” in the opening credits of the TV show.
That original TV tower (seen in a 2003 Tower Site installment) is gone now, supplanted in 1997 by a 950-foot tower that also carries public TV station WCET (Channel 48/RF 34) and public station WGUC (90.9).
Oh – and what about the original WSAI radio tower from Chickasaw Street? That apparently ended up, years later, being moved across the Ohio River to become the tower of what’s now WCVX (1050), tucked in alongside I-71/75 just across the bridge on the Kentucky side.
Back to the north side: less than a mile east of WLWT, on Highland Avenue, we find the 966-foot self-supporter of WKRC-TV (Channel 12/RF 12), the only one of these three that still has a studio at its base. The studio building at 1906 Highland Ave. was also once home to sister stations WKRC (550)/WKRQ (101.9) and eventually to more of what became the Jacor/Clear Channel cluster, and the Clear Channel FMs (and some ex-Clear Channel signals, too) still have their transmitters here – WOFX-FM (92.5), WNNF (94.1), WKRQ (101.9), WEBN (102.7) and WKFS (107.1). (WOFX and WKRQ are now in the hands of other owners – and we have some pictures of the innards of this site that we’ll show you in next week’s installment.)
And we wrap this one up over on Symmes Street, which is where the now-defunct Cincinnati Post put WCPO-TV on the air on channel 7 in 1949. WCPO moved to channel 9, then eventually to digital RF 10 – and then to digital RF 22 after that VHF channel didn’t work out so well. The WCPO tower is also home to WUBE-FM (105.1) and public station WVXU (91.7), as well as to several LPTVs…including one, WBQC, that for a while was using the “WKRP” identity. (Shouldn’t it have been over on the WLWT tower?)
One more quick reminder: you can always see bigger versions of these images just by clicking on them – and if you want extreme close-ups of antennas, go pay a call on the NECRAT.us Cincinnati page…
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Next week: WCKY, Cincinnati