Communications at Point Reyes

Historic RCA Coast Station KPH

Historic RCA Coast Station KPH

RCA / Marconi Wireless Stations:
Guglielmo Marconi sited and commissioned the building of wireless telegraphy transmitting station in Bolinas and receiving station in Marshall, on Tomales Bay, in 1913-14. They formed the foundation for the most successful and powerful ship to shore and land station, known as "KPH," on the Pacific Rim. The Marshall station was supplanted in 1929 to support the growing point-to-point business in the Pacific by a new Art Deco-designed facility at Point Reyes Beach on the "G" Ranch. Few of the succeeding generations of antennas, arranged in "farms," remain at the two sites. However, the radio equipment, some of it dating to the World War II-era, remains intact, functional, and used for ceremonial occasions by former RCA key operators. The Monterey cypress "tree tunnel" at the Point Reyes station is a signature landscape feature that evokes some of the prestige that RCA placed in this profitable, historic operation. Studies are underway to ultimately list both National Seashore sites and the Marshall facility, now a California State Parks conference center, together as a multiple property National Historic Landmark.

Saving a piece of history...
In 2000, Park staff and dedicated volunteers worked to preserve the structures, artifacts and records of the historic RCA/Marconi radio facilities, including the Bolinas transmitting station and the Point Reyes receiving station. The facilities date from 1913, the earliest days of wireless communication, and research indicates that together with the Marshall Marconi receiving station (now a State Park conference center), the sites comprise what appear to be the last intact Marconi-era coast station in North America.

The park archivist has begun the task of organizing over 200 linear feet of operations records inherited from MCI and coordinating curatorial work related to preserving the historic radio equipment. Volunteers from the Maritime Radio Historical Society (MRHS) logged over 1800 hours in the year 2000 organizing and restoring artifacts and equipment. MRHS volunteers put station KPH back on the air for the annual July 12 commemoration of the last commercial transmission of Morse Code in the U.S.

Visiting the Historic KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station
Volunteers from the Maritime Radio Historical Society staff the Historic KPH Receiving Station on most Saturdays from noon to 4 pm and are happy to give visitors who drop by a short tour. Follow Sir Francis Drake Boulevard west towards the Lighthouse until you see the sign for the North District Operations Center. Turn right and pass through the "tree tunnel" to get to the Receiving Station. Park in the lot on the left before the turn-around.

Night of Nights
Night of Nights is an annual event held on the 12th of July by the MRHS to commemorate the history of maritime radio and the closing of commercial Morse operations in the USA. These on-the-air events are intended to honor the men and women who followed the radiotelegraph trade on ships and at coast stations around the world and made it one of honor and skill.

KPH, the ex-RCA coast station located within Point Reyes National Seashore, returns to the air for commemorative broadcasts on July 12th each year at 5:01 p.m. PDT (13 July at 0001 GMT). At 5 p.m. on July 12, 1999, radio operators thought they had broadcasted the last commercial Morse transmission in the U.S. Now the Maritime Radio Historical Society's own KSM carries on the tradition of commercial Morse. Transmissions usually continue until at least midnight PDT (0700GMT).

Members of the public are invited to visit the receiving station for this event. The station is usually open to visitors beginning at 3:00 p.m. PDT. See our Night of Nights page or the MRHS site for more details about this event.

Top of Page

Did You Know?