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The 1873 building was destroyed by fire only sixteen days after opening, but was quickly rebuilt and reopened in 1875. It contained a concert hall, art galleries, a museum, a lecture hall, a library, a banqueting room and a theatre, and was surrounded by a landscaped park. The Willis organ installed in 1875 is still working, but its restoration is continuing.
In 1935 the palace was partly occupied by the BBC, who used it as their main transmitting centre with the famous callsign 2LO. The antenna was designed by Charles Samuel Franklin of the Marconi company. The world's first public broadcasts of high-definition television were made from this site in 1936. Two competing systems, Marconi-EMI's 405-line system and Baird's 240-line system, were installed, each with its own recording studio, and were transmitted on alternate weeks until the 405-line system was chosen in 1937. The palace continued as the BBC's main transmitting centre for London until 1956, interrupted only by World War II. After that it continued to be used for news broadcasts. The antenna mast still stands.
A second disastrous fire destroyed half the building in 1980. Some of the damage was repaired immediately but the project got into severe financial problems and the future of parts of the site is still unknown.