November 19, 2010

Stone Mountain, Georgia

(Originally published January 28, 2005)

"Georgia's Stone Mountain Park," some 10 miles east of Atlanta, is a slightly tacky shrine to the Confederacy - and the home to one of the more oddly-situated TV/FM sites we've happened across.

Georgia Public Television's WGTV (Channel 8) is licensed to Athens, some 40 miles off to the northwest, but it's really an Atlanta station, serving the region from this 312' tower perched atop the solid mass of granite that is Stone Mountain.

Getting here is an adventure in itself - after paying the admission (er, "parking") fee to enter the park, we then lined up for the aerial tram that carries visitors from ground level up to the top of the mountain, passing along the way the monumental carving of Lee, Jackson, et al sculpted into the side of Stone Mountain.

The tram lets visitors off right next to channel 8's transmission line, and we quickly realized that the WGTV transmitter was, in fact, downstairs in the very snack bar/observation lounge in which we were standing. (We found out on the ride down that the site is usually staffed, so at some point we'll probably have to head back and try to get a look.)

A careful look at the tower will reveal that there's a set of FM bays below the TV antenna (which apparently is now a broadband model that can also handle WGTV-DT 12.) That's the former home of WABE (90.1 Atlanta), the city's public radio station, which has moved around a bit over the years and is apparently back to operating from one of the towers just east of downtown. WABE is a sister station to WGTV's public TV competitor in Atlanta, ironically enough - it's operated by the Atlanta Board of Education in conjunction with WPBA (Channel 30).

(One more note about WGTV before we head on: it ended up with the plum channel 8 assignment thanks to a newspaper merger in the early 1950s. When the Cox interests, which owned the Atlanta Journal and WSB television and radio, bought the Atlanta Constitution in 1950, they acquired that paper's broadcast licenses, WCON 550 and the yet-unbuilt WCON-TV 2. WCON radio was simply shut down - imagine that today! - and WSB-TV promptly moved from its early home on channel 8 down to channel 2. Channel 8 was then used, briefly, by the new WLTV, which operated there from 1951 until 1954, when it moved to channel 11 to clear up some spacing issues with, if memory serves, channel 9 in Chattanooga. That freed up channel 8 again for assignment to Athens, and WGTV came along a few years later.)

And before we leave Stone Mountain completely, how about the view of the Atlanta skyline through a dozen miles of haze? Downtown Atlanta is at the left, with midtown in the center and Buckhead at right. Look carefully to the right of Buckhead and you can see a candelabra tower, which I believe to be that of WAGA (Channel 5).

2010 update: WABE did indeed move from Stone Mountain to the New Street site of sister station WPBA-TV, as we saw in a more recent installment of Site of the Week this year. WGTV is still on Stone Mountain - but it moved back to channel 8 at the end of the DTV transition in 2009. And if you like that Stone Mountain picture at the top, it's part of Tower Site Calendar 2011, available now...

Thanks, as always, to Roddy Freeman for his Atlanta hospitality!

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