Columbia Island (New York)

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Columbia Island
NRHA 1.png
LocationLong Island Sound
Coordinates40°52′38″N 73°45′44″W / 40.877322°N 73.762354°W / 40.877322; -73.762354
Area2 acres (0.81 ha)
United States
StateNew York
CityNew Rochelle
Pop. density0 /km2 (0 /sq mi)

Columbia Island (formerly Little Pea Island), is an island in Long Island Sound and part of New Rochelle, New York. It is situated off the south-eastern coast of Davids' Island, immediately adjacent to Pea Island. The island varies in size from about one acre to 175 square feet depending on the tide.

View of the island from Pelham Bay Park

It was once owned by the Iselin family who sold it to the Huguenot Yacht Club along with Pea Island in 1936. Three years later the club sold Little Pea Island to CBS, which renamed it "Columbia". As a result of engineering surveys designating the area around New Rochelle and Port Washington on Long Island Sound as the ideal locality for a radio transmitter to serve the metropolitan New York area, new stations were constructed on these sites by both Columbia ("CBS") and National ("NBC") broadcasting systems in 1940. CBS purchased the island as the site for a new broadcast antenna tower for WCBS-AM (then known by the call sign WABC).[1] [2]

CBS spent approximately $500,000 to construct the transmitter building with emergency housing for ten workers, and the 410 foot (125 m) broadcast tower. The station contained a 50,000-watt transmitter housed in a 75-square-foot (7.0 m2) copper-walled building. There also was a 5,000-watt transmitter unit for emergency use. Electric power was supplied through two submarine cables, which were connected to separate power plants to prevent interruption of service. Emergency generators were installed on the island for protection against power failure.[3] The men who operated the station lived within a grounded metal shell under which were living quarters for engineers, workshops, electrical units that supplied tube voltages, and the backup generator.[4] The transmitter remained in operation until 1963 when it became obsolete, and the station was moved to nearby High Island.

The island was then purchased by the show-business couple Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, who broadcast a breakfast conversation show from their home there. It was part of a package that included a strip of waterfront property, a speedboat, and a tugboat. The couple later gave the island to the College of New Rochelle.[5] In 2005, the then-current owner of the island sought to demolish the old transmitter building and replace it with a private residence. [6]

Filmmaker and actor Al Sutton bought Columbia Island in 2007. To make the island more livable, he constructed an off-the-grid "green" home within the concrete building with solar panels.[7]


  1. ^ "CBS on an Island". Time. 1940-09-02. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  2. ^ Kennedy Jr., T.R (1941-10-12). "Radio 'Island' Comes to Life" (PDF, fee required). The New York Times. p. X12. Retrieved 2007-03-13. (Reprint)
  3. ^ "NEW STATIONS UNDER WAY WEAF and WABC Will Take to the Air From Sites on Long Island Sound". The New York Times. August 25, 1940. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  4. ^ Kennedy Jr., T.R (1941-10-12). "Radio 'Island' Comes to Life" (PDF, fee required). The New York Times. p. X12. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  5. ^ "Radio-TV Couple Donate an Island To Catholic College". The New York Times. Jan 13, 1966. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  6. ^ Kettner, Susan. "Board of Appeals on Zoning Agenda 6/7/2005 - 7:00PM". City of New Rochelle, NY. Archived from the original on 2006-01-02. Retrieved 2006-03-13. (Site defunct prior to 10/2010)
  7. ^

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Coordinates: 40°52′39″N 73°45′57″W / 40.87754°N 73.76577°W / 40.87754; -73.76577