Goulart Interview / wp-2007-04-12
A lot of history has taken place at 2201 Marconi Road, now the InfoAge Science and History Learning Center. Starting in 1914, the site's 16 buildings were part of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. of America, including a receiving station and the Marconi Hotel that served as the residence for wireless operators, said InfoAge volunteer Steve Goulart of Red Bank.
From 1917 to 1919, the camp was run by the U.S. Navy during World War I.
Between the two world wars, Goulart said, the site was used for multiple purposes, including a nursing home, a recreational center for the Ku Klux Klan and a campus for King's College.
In 1941, the camp was used for radar research that would prove valuable for the troops fighting World War II.
Top-secret work continued at the site throughout the Cold War and the base was closed in 1993, Goulart said.
Wall resident Fred Carl, who has been the director of InfoAge since it was incorporated in 1998, said the turnover of the 16 buildings to Wall for the development of the center was approved in 2002. However, Carl said, there is currently a dispute between the township and the Army over the condition of the buildings.
Carl said that at the time of the turnover the Army "had not maintained the buildings according to regulations" and that they were filled with mold and mildew.
"The town refused to accept (the buildings) in that condition," Carl said.
Goulart said the first time he toured the Marconi Hotel building "essentially you needed a spacesuit to come through" because visitors in the building would find themselves "ankle-deep in lead paint."
However, Carl said, with a core group of 20 regular volunteers and money raised through donations from the public and provided by Wall and Monmouth County through grants, InfoAge is set up in eight of the site's buildings and hopes to have the entire camp up and running as a learning center in the next five to seven years.
Among the permanent exhibits that opened at InfoAge approximately a year ago, Goulart said, are rooms run by the Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists, the Garden State Central Model Railroad Club, the New Jersey Historical Divers Association and the New Jersey Antique Radio Club, which has the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame at InfoAge. There also is an exhibit dedicated to World War II military electronics.
It takes between 90 minutes and two hours to tour the current museum, and visitors have ranged from families in mini-vans to Europeans fans of radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, Goulart said.
"I think the people who we've had (visit) tend to be charmed by the fact that we had Marconi here, that we had science here, that World War II was partially fought here," he said.
InfoAge hopes to draw up to 70,000 school children a year within the next four to five years as the center expands to all of the buildings on the site, Goulart said.
"We're hoping that (the center) will have a very positive effect on Wall Township, Neptune, Belmar and Manasquan school children," Carl said. "You can see things in a book, or see things talked about in a movie, but there's nothing like going to a place and getting your hands on actual equipment to be inspired to be a part of science and engineering."
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