Moorestown's Giant Golf Ball
Anyone driving on the New Jersey Turnpike or through Moorestown, NJ from 1960 to 1975 will remember passing the giant "golf ball" pictured at the left. Located on Centerton Road in Moorestown, the 15 story 140 foot wide snow white radar dome was a familiar landmark.
The radar station was built by RCA, which operated a radar plant nearby, in late 1959 at a cost of $30 million. It was operated by The US Air Force. The station was a prototype electronic eye of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, designed to provide advance warning to the United States of an enemy missile attack during the Cold War. Similar golf balls were then built in Greenland, Alaska and England after the system was proven here.
The radar needed about 75 men to operate, and was capable of tracking needles in orbit 2,000 miles from earth and could pick up an object the size of a house door at 3,000 miles.
The photo on the right shows the radar antenna which was housed in the golf ball-also known as a radome, which shielded the 84 foot diameter antenna from winds up to 180 miles per hour and temperatures of 65 degrees below zero. It would be very unusual to have weather conditions like this in Moorestown, but the system was designed to operate in the harsh Arctic zone.
Even though the golf ball had many fans as it was a handy symbol to let motorists know they were almost home, it also had some enemies. Residents of nearby Willingboro blamed the radar station in 1972 for causing a low buzzing sound in their televisions, stereos and intercoms, and for spiriting away radio-controlled model airplanes.
The golf ball produced many rumors. In 1970 it was said the station would be dismantled and shipped to Asia so the US could keep an eye on China, and in 1972 rumors circulated that people with pacemakers shouldn't drive past it. Both of these were proved false. Children were sometimes told someone hit a golf ball into the field, and it grew like that.
As the Cold War began to wind down, the station was also used to track satellites. During the1970's more sophisticated radar systems were being developed and Moorestown's golf ball was deemed obsolete. It was taken out of service in December, 1974 and dismantled in early 1976.
After this, RCA built a replica of a US Navy cruiser deckhouse atop the building that the golf ball sat on for testing its Aegis Combat System and for training Navy personnel. The Aegis facility is still located here, operated jointly by Lockheed Martin (which now operates the radar plant) and the Navy. Travelers now have a "cruiser in a cornfield" to let them know thier exit is coming up.
The photo on the left shows how the Moorestown golf ball site appears today, serving as a testing and training center for the US Navy's Aegis Combat System.
The site is nicknamed "the cruiser in the cornfield" because from a distance it looks like a battleship sitting in the middle of a cornfield.