Wireless Relay Tower To Be `Planted' At Mount Vernon

MOUNT VERNON, Va. - A cellular telephone company plans to construct a 100-foot relay tower, disguised as a white pine tree, in thick woods on George Washington's estate.

The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, which owns the 500-acre estate, insisted on the camouflage before agreeing to lease the tower space to Cellular One.

"This is a site of such national importance that we wanted to demonstrate we are taking extreme care when it comes to anything that might affect the aesthetics and the views," said Mike Quinn, association deputy director.

Mount Vernon's "treepole," with plastic and rubber for needles and bark, is scheduled to be built later this year by Cellular One.

Quinn said the antenna would not be visible from any public road around Washington's home in northeastern Virginia overlooking the Potomac River.

Many wireless-phone companies have begun disguising antennas as silos, chimneys and lighthouses. About 17,000 antennas have been built since 1983, and an additional 100,000 are expected over the next nine years as the demand for wireless technology grows.