Buzzards Bay Loses Historic Landmark

Don't bother looking for the martini glass: It's not there anymore. "At Sea" from our May 1, 2008, CW Reckonings

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Uncertainty about the fate of Massachusetts' Round Hill Point radome ended last November in a cloud of dust. For more photos of the demolition, click here.Steve Melo

If you sail on Buzzards Bay, you'll notice something missing this summer--and forever more--on the approach into Padanaram, in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The Round Hill Point radome was demolished in the fall after months of controversy and negotiation between the Dartmouth Historical Commission, which wanted to preserve the landmark, and James Bevilacqua, who now owns the 11-acre property on which the radio dish used to stand.

While there were also plenty of locals who didn't want what they referred to as "the martini glass" torn down, Bevilacqua cited safety concerns about the aging tower and also complained that it blocked his view.

The radome had quite a history and stood for nearly a century. The base of the structure was built as a water tank around 1920, on the 240-acre estate of the late Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green--son of Hetty Green, the infamous "Witch of Wall Street." In 1924, Green invited scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to make Round Hill a center for experimenting with transmitting radio waves, which eventually led to top-secret experiments during World War II and into the Cold War era; and it was MIT that added the giant antenna, now referred to as the radar dome. The property was sold to a religious order in 1964, acquired by the town of Dartmouth in 1968, and privately obtained in 1970.

Green's opulent mansion has long since been converted into condominiums, and a number of other condos and luxury homes have been built on the property. But the radome always survived and served as a trusty navigational aid for sailors. The unique structure was also a familiar and welcoming sight for those who call that stretch of water home, as does this writer. I'm going to miss that old thing. When we launch our Tartan 30 this year, that empty point will take some getting used to. Of course, there might be a new McMansion in the radome's place for we cruisers to use as a guide.