By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
Property owned by the Mavris family at Point St. George not only has a long history, but a history with an unusual connection.
After all, how many times is a structure in a small Northcoast county like this deemed the only remaining anything in the world?
In the case of the Point St. George property, the connection is to cryptographers the study of message secrecy. It's also described as "communication in the presence of adversaries."
The second definition fits one of the iterations of the Mavris property well.
During World War II, the property housed a group of cryptographers and a highly specialized direction finder radio.
It was Intercept Station T, located on Radio Road. The Navy had tested a direction finder radio at the Point St. George location in March 1935. It determined that radios should be operational a year later.
Before the cryptographers moved in during the early 1940s, the U.S. Coast Guard owned the property.
Cryptographer Graydon Lewis sleuthed out the facts for a 1992 article for a cryptographer's magazine. He updated the article updated recently.
Called a DP DF radio, the unit was located in the building's penthouse.
"The last time I was out there, I only saw one Radio Road sign left," Lewis said.
He's retired now and lives in the Eugene, Ore., area.
Direction finder radios can be used for two reasons: helping a lost vessel figure out where it is or locating an enemy vessel by intercepting its radio signals and determining its position "so we could sink it."
The Point St. George property was one of a network of nine fixed and 12 portable stations. Its position was a fixed station.
Others included Corregidor, Guam, Oahu, Adak, Alaska, Wahiawa, an island in the Hawaiian chain described only as "private," Imperial Beach, Guam and the Farralon Islands.
Their locations were still classified, said Lewis, when he first wrote his story in 1992. They have since been declassified.
Not only was its mission under covers like part of its past remained until recently, some of its operations were done "on the QT" quietly.
Before its radio was put into the penthouse, the cryptographers wanted it in a different location, one that was lower and closer to the land's edge.
Property nearby their first choice was closed to the cryptographers because the U.S. Department of Lighthouses refused to permit the radio to be located on its land.
The cryptographers solved that problem by putting the unit on skids so they could easily move it off the property if someone spotted it.
According to Lewis' article, the unit was relocated in the 16- by 12-foot redwood water tank that remains on a platform seven feet above the ground.
"The Navy was going to condemn the property because the owner wouldn't sell it to them for the price they were offering," Lewis said.
The property was owned by J.J. McNamara and his family. The Navy wanted to buy it for $2,300, but the McNamaras asked for $300 per acre. At issue was a 50.9-acre tract, about 10 acres of which was unusable to the Navy because it was scored with gullies.
But because the war was winding down at that point, the issue became moot. The Navy decided April 15, 1944 to discontinue operations there and transfer its personnel and equipment elsewhere.
It returned the property to the Coast Guard on June 1 of that year.
After the Coast Guard abandoned ship, figuratively anyway, professional painter William Newman purchased it.
"He had worked on the building and knew how well, almost over-built, it was," Lewis said.
Dr. Michael N. Mavris bought the building for an office and reared his family there.
A Greek Orthodox chapel on the property was, reputedly, built by the Mavrises, who have Greek heritage.
The physician's son, George Mavris, lives there now and has located his law office there.
Mavris did not return repeated calls placed for his comments.