Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Here you'll find a wide range of discussions on old-house topics.

Moderators: oldhouse, TinaB, Don M, Schag

Posts: 185
Joined: Fri Dec 09, 2005 4:04 am

Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by philsvintageradios »

If your house lived between the 20's and 40's chances are it had an old radio in it , and it is very likely it had an antenna strung up in the attic, or from just outside to a nearby tree. maybe it has supports, spindles on the roof, with insulators.

You may find evidence of connections to a waterpipe for the ground, perhaps insulators, lightning arresters etc. You might find a ground rod in the ground close to where the antenna entered the house. I have a couple of old antenna kits that came with a flat band of copper that was to run through the window jam.

Most of these old antennas are gone now , but some may still remain. radio collecting and restoring is another hobby of mine and I have seen very little about the antennas themselves, and they are in many cases an authentic detail for an old house.

By the way, any old radio that is reasonably complete is likely restorable if you want to invest a bit of work in it. Once restored, they will usually play quite reliably, and they add a nice touch to the atmosphere with their warm sound.

Often they were pushed into attics and other storage spaces. Thousands of different models were made , I have a large collection of parts, and partly complete radios for my restorations. I have a really large collection of knobs alone and there were thousands of styles. In 1929 there were millions of cabinet models sold as they became mainstream. Factories couldn't keep up with demand, and many were a status symbol with their elegant cabinetry. the depression, or the onset of it didn't seem to affect the numbers sold. Many radio manufacturers did go out of business around then along with a lot of other companies, with the stock market crash.

If you have radios or parts feel free to drop me a line, I could likely give you some idea if what you have is valuable or help with advice. Many of these old radios can still be had for a resonable price especially on the east coast where they were plentiful. Like old house lovers , Radio restorationists don't like to hear of them being turned into liqueur cabinets or to house newer electronics, but would prefer to see them restored properly.

The radio /phono consoles made in the 40's and 50's likely characterized as a big square box with shelves for records are usually not very valuable. their turn will come but many collectors don't want more than one or two of them. They too ca be restored and enjoyed for years after.


Posts: 2189
Joined: Sat Sep 30, 2006 10:12 am
Location: WV

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by Sombreuil_Mongrel »

I totally enjoy my Telefunken tube-amplified console Stereo Hi-Fi (Hymnus model) with a record player that plays 33/45/78. Love that mellow tube sound! It is one of the earlier stereo consoles, and gets AM, FM and Shortwave. All it has needed in terms of repairs was a new phonograph cartridge, and the power amp re-capped. Gotta love those German radios!

Posts: 187
Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 9:05 am
Location: Tuscaloosa, AL

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by brick1101 »

Last edited by brick1101 on Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 171
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2004 12:03 pm

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by shrimpdip »

I restored a 1938 Zenith 7S258 a year or so ago. (with a lot of help from an antique radio forum, being careful not to make it too shiny :wink: ) I love the robot dial and the tuning eye. :-) Sounds great booming through the old house. I recently finished an sstran transmitter kit and hooked it to my computer so I can listen to just about anything on the Zenith. On Friday and Saturday nights we turn off the tv and listen to the "Opry" on WSM. My daughters (6 & 8 ) love dancing to the music. We light a couple of the old lamps and have a nice quiet family evening. I haven't found any leftovers of an old radio antenna anywhere while crawling through the bowles of the house. I have just run a wire up to the attic and then a couple loops around the perimeter.

Last edited by shrimpdip on Thu Jan 28, 2010 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Daniel Meyer
Posts: 1236
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:04 am
Location: Texas

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by Daniel Meyer »

I keep meaning to fire this puppy up and see if anything works.

It's got a 33/45/78 record player in it on the left side, complete with 45 changer adaptor, AM/FM/Shortwave on the other side.

We didn't check it out when we bought the house because we didn't want to plug anything risky into the old junky electrical system. I've got new power now...I need to get around to seeing if this thing will work...

Of I need a digital converter to see if the TV side works...

Daniel Meyer
Author. Adventurer. Electrician. Cat God.

Posts: 275
Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2010 10:25 am
Location: Ionia, Michigan

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by CycloneOfRed »

Actually I'm glad you posted this.

I have one of these (see image. It's the exact model, but this is an image from Google...Thankfully mine isn't quite as banged up). My uncle gave it me when I was in high school when he ran out of room in his house for it.


It 'works' but the sound is horribly fuzzy. I think the tubes just need to be replaced, but I have no idea how to do this, or where to get replacement parts. Also, the buttons are all cracked...but from what I've seen of older radios like mine, that's pretty common. Any suggestions on how to go about bringing this beauty back would be appreciated!

And Daniel, that entertainment center of yours is awesome!

Laws of Home Repair:
1) It will be more difficult than you think.
2) It will take much longer than you think.
3) Murphy's Law is in effect tenfold.


Posts: 116
Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2007 4:48 pm
Location: Netherlands

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by Battlecat »

That looks great, sorry about the sound.

Thanks for this thread ( I rushed upstairs to spot for some antenna remains)

We have old radios/record players in almost every room in the house, but none of them are pre 50s.
50s and 60s radios sound very good (I love the Philips Plano radios) and are easy to get, but when I walk into a real old radio I will not pass on it....

I have some hooked up to small internet radio/music streaming gadgets. Listening to Old Time Radio stations through an vintage radios is a premium!

Here's a biggie (KUBA set ith Telefunken radio), I had to have it because all papers and the initial 50s record collection came with it

Posts: 1497
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2006 11:42 am

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by PowerMuffin »

Phil, thank you for your post. I've been thinking about acquiring an old radio and love that we have a resource among us. I'll be looking for traces of an antenna too.
Shrimpdip, what a great idea for family time. When our kids were yound we used to have Friday night movie night. We would have dinner and take our sons and their buddies to the movies. It was a nice tradition.

Civil War Seamstress
Posts: 1016
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:28 pm
Location: North Abington, Massachusetts

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by Civil War Seamstress »

You reminded me I have a small radio at the repair shop of my clock repair man and I told him it was time for it to come back to me. He has had it for over 3 years now, since he's in love with it and would love me to allow him to keep it and I wasn't in a hurry to get it done. He used to repair German radios and do clocks, but gave up the radio side awhile ago.

I also have an antenna (TV) up in the attic..... thanks for the idea that if and when I get my old tube radio back I could hook it up to that antenna and really pull the stations in. Too bad these old beauties can't pull in the old radio programs and music, like in that the episode of the "Twilight Zone". I forgot the name of the episode. To hear modern music and rap crap come out of them is disheartening.
"If everything is coming your're in the Wrong Lane!"


Don M
Posts: 6965
Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2003 11:35 am
Location: Boiling Springs, PA

Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by Don M »

I remember building a crystal radio & running an antenna out my bedroom window to a tree when I was a kid. That was great fun & a good learning experience as well. Reception via antenna in our stone house with standing seam metal roof is very poor even with the fancy smancy expensive antenna I purchased for the FM. :evil: The cable company provides excellent music channels that I can play through my home theater stereo system so I don't use the FM much. Don
1840 Limestone Farmhouse

Post Reply