In the earliest days of television in the Capital Region, WTEN Channel 10 and WROW radio shared production facilities in the Rensselaer Technology Park. In 1953, WROW purchased 100 acres, including the historic Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet convent located on Glenmore Road at the northern end of the Tech Park. The property had belonged to the Sisters of St. Joseph since 1889 and was a children’s home for many years. It was closed from 1929 to 1933 for renovations and operated as a convent until 1950. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet now reside on Watervliet-Shaker Road in Latham.
WTEN went on the air on October 14, 1953. One of the highest transmission towers in the region was installed at 600 feet tall and program production consisted of a single studio and one camera based in the large, 58 room convent. One of the shows produced from that location was the Romper Room School hosted by teacher Sylvia Weber which aired Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 8:15 am. The most popular show on WTEN in the infancy of television – the Annual Cerebral Palsy Telethon.
(More than 1,000 students and community members have volunteered at WRPI over the last 50 years.)
A catastrophic fire on May 26, 1966 destroyed the convent in its entirety. By then, WTEN and WROW had moved to their new production facilities on Northern Boulevard in Albany. WTEN, then owned by the Capital Cities Corp, had switched frequencies and the obsolete tower transmitter was generously donated to RPI. That tower put WRPI on the map for it enabled the station to increase from 1,000 to 20,000 watts, unheard of for a university based radio station in the 1960’s. The station has been in operation for almost 60 years and hundreds of students have worked at WRPI. That experience has led many alumni to pursue careers in broadcasting. WRPI is still one of the most popular stations in the region, the tower stands proud on the escarpment along the Hudson River and its broadcast signal is received up to 75 miles away.
( WRPI President Trent Gillaspie ’08 and Gino D’Addorio “08, station manager.)