The Story Behind Chester’s Abandoned Telephone Pole Farm

Highlands Ridge Park is home to a strange sight: hundreds of old telephone poles standing like trees.

Highlands Ridge Park in Chester
Highlands Ridge Park in Chester was a testing facility for AT&T. Photo: Courtesy of Terence McKenna

There is something curious at Chester’s Highlands Ridge Park: nearly 700 abandoned telephone poles standing like trees.

For almost 50 years, the park, often called the telephone pole farm, served as a testing facility for AT&T.

The story of this unusual park begins in 1928, when 15 acres of farmland were rented by the phone company and set up to test the durability of its telephone poles. By 1930, the company purchased an additional 85 acres to expand their research.

The Northeast’s variable weather—from freezing temperatures to intense heat, torrential rain to high winds—was a perfect environment for testing the durability of different types of wood and the chemical treatments used to create weather-resistant telephone poles.

The farm was abandoned in the 1980s as advancements discovered at the testing facility made its continued operation obsolete. Today, there are nearly 150 million wooden telephone poles in the United States, designed in part using the research conducted at the testing facility.

In 2004, the telephone-pole farm was purchased and incorporated into Highlands Ridge Park. The telephone poles remain, some more weathered than others. Often, the park is a quiet and solitary place to visit. Visitors frequent the park to walk through the landmark communications graveyard.

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