The end of WBT-AM

Not the license, but the original building that housed the station.

The earliest radio stations had an odd collection of owners competing to use the new technology. Pioneer owners included newspapers, department stores, religious groups – and in the case of WBT, the local Buick dealer. WBT stood for “Watch Buicks Travel”. Westinghouse had a presence in Charlotte (and still does). C. C. Coddington was the local Buick dealer and smelled opportunity. He set up 500 watt WBT on the roof of his new five story building. The auto parts department was on the second floor, cars were stored on the 3rd and 4th floor and the roof was used for testing, presumably to keep fumes out of the building.

WBT is now a class A 50,000 watt clear channel station, but with less than optimal signal propagation. AM requires not only a tower of the correct height, but a copper ground system to send the signal through the ground. The perfect location for an AM transmitter is wetlands. The soil in Charlotte is not conducive to good ground conduction, so reception is spotty.

The station was soon moved to a location way out in the country, where it is still located, although the studio is no longer at the tower site.

Lost Charlotte

Charlotte Observer

Mr Coddington died in 1928 at age 50, and his heirs sold WBT to CBS radio in 1929. That ended the local ownership. The building eventually was taken over by the state of North Carolina for use by social service agencies. The building was renamed the James K. Polk building, as President Polk was born in Mecklenburg County.

The Polk building is conveniently right across from the Greyhound bus station and the future transportation center. It has remained empty since the 1990s. Various architects have looked at the building, but can’t figure a way to reuse the building. It is just a strange building.

Work is already underway to construct the new Amtrak/NCDOT sidings at the same location where the Southern Railway passenger station was until Amtrak took over and tore it down – and moved to a small building next to the freight yard in a seriously bad neighborhood. With it clear the streetcar line extension and transportation center are on track, it is time to tear down the Polk building and build 358 more luxury apartments in uptown Charlotte, which currently has a 22% vacancy rate.

As I drove by on Saturday, I snapped a picture of the final rubble pile

James K Polk building debris

I feel confident that nobody at Entercom HQ in Pennsylvania gives a damn about Charlotte or history.

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2 Responses to The end of WBT-AM

  1. CC1s121LrBGT says:

    Three cheers for C.C. !

    A man ahead of his time- he knew car & roof went together long before Sen Mitt Romney! 😉

  2. Parrott says:

    Probably not Fred. Bummer. I remember when they tore down WJJJ studio and transmitter in Christiansburg, VA. back in 1995. Sucked. I remember touring the station when I was a kid in 1974 with my old man and younger brother. It was awesome! they had a receptionist and called in the engineer to show us around. It was a blast, 1250 watts , and they went off the air at sundown, that sucked.
    So I listened to WBT after dark, and a bunch other stations.
    Things keep on changing,

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