Just a few Radar Hill site pictures to document what was, back in the mid 60s, and the last pictures of the site before demolition in the 80s..

Click here for an update -- a revisit in July, 2005

What follows is some text written in response to an inquiry about long-ago corporate memories of the Ohio University Radar Hill Laboratory, operated in the 1960s and 70s by the Department of Electrical Engineering's Avionics Research Group. This group later became the Avionics Engineering Center, which is still a highly successful program at the University.

See the "post-card" color picture, below.

The south-most dish was the 30-foot steerable one, used for moon-bounce and Echo Satellite work at S-band, later expanded to include some DoD satellite work (IDCSP birds) at X-band. The two fixed dishes facing sort of East were monitoring Parkersburg's VOR (PKB at the time), looking for terrain effects at various seasons. This was thesis work done a thousand years ago (1963?) by MS student Joe Keesey.

The first Radar Hill Laboratory building was just to the left of the left-most fixed dish, built into the (east) side of the hill. It was brick (naturally, for Georgian-centric Ohio University).  Later, a second steerable dish was installed just about where the yellow trailer site is in one picture, and a second brick building was built into the west side of the hill nearby.

That little orange device sticking up at picture right was the "gun director," from Navy days. We mounted a telescope on it for optical tracking of satellites, and its servos steered the 30-foot dish.  Later, we steered the big dish manually from the control room using printed(!) computer outputs from an old vacuum tube computer I brought up from campus (the old Royal Precision LGP-30, a drum machine with 110 vacuum tubes and a 14 msec cycle time). We had a moon and satellite look angles program on it, though!

...The State of Ohio owned the whole place (still does?). The property, as I remember it, was borrowed from the State Hospital, and eventually it became part of the University when the Ridges were transferred. I don't remember any agreements with the University's planning office relating to "reoccupation" by Electrical Engineering.

There was a decent road (gravel/cinders in those days) accessed through the Athens Mental Health Center (now part of the University and called The Ridges). The road is still there, with a closed gate just past the newer buildings and the new water tower on the hill above the main Ridges buildings. I saw it on my last visit to Ohio in 2001, but I did not walk up to the Hill itself. There was a nice apple orchard along the road, at least back then, cared for tenderly by an old, old inmate who was really a pretty colorful guy with a good sense of humor. We all thought he wasn't crazy (at least no crazier than we were), but just old, and with nowhere else to go. Guess those people are all "mainstreamed" and on the streets now... progress...

You go toward the new water tower on the hill west of the "big" Ridges building. There's a road which splits off to the left, and there's a locked gate there. The road is (was) unpaved from there on. (Sounds like the beginnings of computer game ZORK or Dungeons and Dragons, doesn't it...?)

Follow the road - big left curve and then back to the right. Stay on the ridgeline, past an old dump on the right and an orchard on both sides (if it's still there).  The road may split here and the left fork heads south down the hill. The fork which goes straight on westward is the one. Generally, the rule is, "keep going up". When you get to the highest point anywhere nearby, you are there.

There were at least 10 acres of cleared ground in those days, with the site on a significant rise in the middle.  There were many antennas and two buildings (all gone now, because the University was worried about liability, and people were going up there to smoke dope, etc.). But the foundations are probably still there.  You should see some old foundations for the big dish - four concrete pillars with bolts sticking out?

Utilities were fine -- we operated a 10,000-watt transmitter up there in my day, and communicated using a simple phone line -- no network in those days!  Utility wire came to the fence and then underground to the main building. We went downtown to campus to do batch computing and bring the results to the lab. Much later, I believe Prof. Jim Gilfert set up a surplus microwave system between Clippinger Labs on the campus and the Hill. I don't know how well it worked.

The horizon mask was almost perfect. Except for the WOUB-TV/FM tower and a few other point obstructions, the terrain mask was a maximum of 0.5 degrees all around.

Back then, the place was electrically quiet. The nearest power transmission lines were over a mile away. I think there has been a power substation and maybe some cell-phone or microwave facilities erected on hilltops nearby, so this might bear some investigation when radio-frequency interference and noise are considered.

There was also a square tower with lab rooms built at the top located on the brow of the hill north of the main site, looking over the valley. That's gone too, but the foundations may still be there.

I have good memories of a lot of good work at the Hill. It was a great hide-out for a few graduate students who became lifelong friends as we saw each other through the project work, and marriages and first-children and first automobiles and pets and practical jokes. We did a lot of constructive growing up out there, while we built a successful laboratory with remarkably little brand-new stuff. We were accomplished scroungers.

Names I remember include Tom Clabaugh, Ralph Burhans (who started his OU career there), John Lee Barnum, Andy Dudash, Ron Huff (then a young faculty member), George Bush (the handyman from the Plains, not the other Bushes...), Bob Evans (the super technician), Mike Barilla, John Day, Anne Shuman and others. Dick McFarland started the place, with help from Jim White and supporters Louise Mullenix and later Emma Cade. There are others I'm leaving out, and maybe some will write to remind me of those good times.

There are great stories about a lab station wagon that got loose and wound up at the treeline south of the buildings...about one engineer's discovery of the audio tape "The Battle at Thunderblow" and the fun we had listening to that at slow moments...the goofy intercom tapes recorded during tracking missions while the team turned out superb satellite and moon tracks...the time we saved the $10,000 klystron tube by using CO2 fire extinguishers to cool the transmitter when its water cooling system failed...the Radar Hill kite with about 2 miles (really!) of string...We never wrote our memoirs, and we should have! 

For more details, contact the Avionics Engineering Center at www.ohio.edu/avionics -- they still have the reports in the file, I'm certain. Ask about EER 1-1 and 1-2. That's right, we started the series!

Any future tenants will have to be careful to respect the sanctity of this hallowed ground...!

Robert Lilley, Ph. D., Director Emeritus 
Avionics Engineering Center

Santa Barbara, California
February, 2002

Radar Hill Postcard - prior to second laboratory and Sohio 28-foot dish.
Early Radar Hill documentation. 
Aerial shot of site looking west. See Route 682 heading west in the background. Center background is the Dept of Highways garage. Today, there's the power company HQ building behind that garage.
Aerial shot of site looking southeast
Early (1964..) wide-angle aerial view looking north. Tower lab later built about where furthest white circle is. 
"Ice Station Zebra" -- Aerial looking north across the Hill. 30-foot lunar dish in foreground. Bldg 2 later added on west side of hill about where temporary trailer is located. Sohio tracking dish was just south of Bldg 2.
Snow show, wider view, looking generally north across what is now the 682 bypass, and across the river to open space west of the County Fairgrounds. Tower laboratory was later built just at the right edge of this picture on the brow of the hill.
From access road looking west up to the hilltop.
Optical horizon mask, 1965
Control room, bldg 1 - look at those white socks! From left: Ampex audio recorder, audio rack, tracking receiver and frequency control, data receiver and driver klystron, antenna control rack, UHF communications rack. S-band transmitter is behind camera.
Lunar-dish tracking receiver - used at x-band for military IDCSP satellite series. A monument to technician Bob Evans and the vacuum tube!
Transmitter room, 1965 - Lilley tunes...
10 KW "Texas-Tower" transmitter used for phase-stable transmissions during lunar studies and Echo satellite programs. Technician is Bob Evans.
Graduate student Tom Clabaugh at the control console for the Sohio tracking dish, during installation. Note Teletype Model 28 to right. State of the art for that time... 
Radar Hill Computer facility, 1964. LGP-30 vacuum-tube, drum computer - Moon and satellite look angles computations.
28-foot steerable dish from Sohio research lab, brought to Radar Hill by Ralph Burhans. 
The "lunar studies" 30-foot steerable paraboloid rigged for receiving. Tracking feed hardware in tub at focus; dipole antenna temporarily mounted for monitoring Gemini communications.
Drawing of tower lab, built north of main Radar Hill installation, on the brow of the hill overlooking the Hocking river to the north.
Don't ask.
1980s picture series by photographer, name unknown, shortly before installation was bulldozed for liability reasons. Gun director steering device, with ornaments.
Lab Bldg 2 exterior looking east, 1980s
Bldg 2 interior looking south, 1980s.
Lunar dish control room, Bldg 1. Note tipped console from previous picture, and skeleton of transmitteer to left. Picture looking north through loading-dock overhead-door visible in other control-room picture.
North door of Building 1. Stairs up to Lunar dish at top of hill. Tropo dish 1 is behind camera.
From left: Tropo dish 1, Lunar steerable dish, Tropo dish 2, Sohio steerable dish, north end of Bldg 2. Lunar gun- director aiming station just in front of Sohio dish in picture. Tower lab behind camera to north.
Re-visit to the Radar Hill Site in July, 2005
Web page and images generated using
2/4/2002 22:50