Western Union Telegraph Company (Washington Radio Terminal)

This seventy-three-foot-tall octagonal transmission tower was built from 1945 to 1947 near the city’s highest point of elevation.

The Western Union Telegraph Company Tenley Radio Terminal is a landmark in engineering history. Built between 1945 and 1947, it served as a transmission and receiving station in an experimental radio relay triangle connecting New York, Philadelphia, DC, and Pittsburgh, inaugurating the first use of microwave radio for commercial communications. The system was an experimental one, intended to replace a century-old wire telegraphy network, and it continued in use for national security communications during the Cold War.

Designed by DC architect Leon Chatelain Jr. (1902-1979), the terminal is an early and rare example of an architect-designed transmission tower. Western Union used the tower as an icon for modern communications systems in its advertising. The building’s design owes something to lingering Art Deco and Moderne styles of the 1940s and 1950s, but its restraint of detail suggests its utilitarian nature. The installation also includes a two-level poured-in-place concrete battery and engine room.

DC Inventory: May 22, 2008
National Register: May 21, 2004



4723 41st Street NW