A Centennial Celebration of Marconi & RCA Wireless Radio in West Marin, 1914-2014

Logo for the Marconi & RCA Wireless Radio Centennial.

Radio has played a significant role in the history of West Marin since Marconi built the first wireless stations at Bolinas and Marshall in 1914. Discover the ways the West Marin community celebrated this history and the legacy that continues to make radio part of our lives, past and present. All events were open to the public and free of charge, unless otherwise noted.

Download the flyer. (57 KB PDF)

Event: Marconi & RCA Centennial & KWMR 15th Anniversary Exhibits
Date: Tuesday, April 1 through Wednesday, April 30
Location: Toby's Feed Barn Art Gallery
Address:11250 Hwy. 1; Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Phone: 415-663-1223
Description: This exhibit provided an introduction to 100 years of local radio history, from the first transmission across the Pacific to contemporary community radio. An opening reception was held on Saturday, April 5.

Event: Paper Work: Signals and Signs, an installation by Joan Grubin
Date: Saturday, April 5 through Friday, June 13
Location: Commonweal Gallery
Address: 451 Mesa Road; Bolinas, CA 94924
Phone: 415-868-0970
Description: New York artist Joan Grubin's large-format paper and tape installation is a visual manifestation of dots and dashes, specifically designed for the New School, Commonweal Gallery space. Inspired by the Commonweal mission and informed by its facility's history as a Marconi/RCA radio station, the work deploys a visual vocabulary that suggests a system of technology, circuitry, and energy harnessed to fling signals out into the void, in hopes that someone, somewhere, will receive the messages.

Event: International Marconi Day
Date: Saturday, April 26
Location: McCargo Hall at the Marconi Conference Center State Historic Park
Address: 18500 California Hwy. 1; Marshall, CA 94940
Phone: 415-663-9020
Description: Each year the Cornish Amateur Radio Club organizes International Marconi Day (IMD), an on-the-air event to celebrate the birthday of Guglielmo Marconi, born April 25, 1874. K6KPH set up their own receive site in the Chief Engineer's Cottage using vintage receiving equipment. With both transmit and receive sites at historic Marconi locations, K6KPH was one of the most authentic Award Stations participating in IMD.

Event: Ship to Shore: Learning Morse Code
Date: Daily, Thursday, April 24 through Wednesday, October 1
Location: Bear Valley Visitor Center. Directions.
Phone: 415-464-5100
Description: Visitors were invited to step up to a self-guided learning station, fill out a Marconigram with dots and dashes, and try tapping out the dits and dahs of code on the amplified Morse key. Visitors were also able to learn where one can go online to keep practicing and became an amateur radio enthusiast. Visitors could also take home a Marconigram, commemorative pencil, and a Junior Morse Operator badge.

 
Ship-to-shore Morse operators at the Marshall RCA station in 1923. PRNS Museum Collection.

Ship-to-shore Morse operators at the Marshall RCA station in 1923.

Event: Bolinas Museum Exhibition Previews and Public Reception
Date: Saturday, June 7
Location: Bolinas Museum
Address: 48 Wharf Road; Bolinas, CA 94924
Phone: 415-868-0330
Description: The public was invited to join us for intimate and informative previews with the artists and curators before the 2 pm public reception celebrating the opening of four new exhibitions inspired by the history of wireless radio in West Marin. Co-hosted by Point Reyes National Seashore Association.

Event: Bolinas Museum Exhibitions
Date: Fridays through Sundays, June 7 through August 17
Location: Bolinas Museum
Address: 48 Wharf Road; Bolinas, CA 94924
Phone: 415-868-0330
Description:

  • Wireless Giant of the Pacific: 100 Years of Maritime Radio in West Marin
    Main Gallery. Curated by Carola DeRooy, Archivist, Point Reyes National Seashore.
    Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), inventor of wireless radio, constructed powerful Pacific coast stations in Bolinas and Marshall in 1914 to connect his round-the-world services across the Pacific. After WWI the Radio Corporation of America obtained the sites and commercial maritime radio services continued until 1997. Today the historic stations are part of Point Reyes National Seashore partnering with the Maritime Radio Historical Society to keep the legacy alive. This exhibition presented a 100-year look at the development of wireless radio technology still widely used today and highlights historic events that transpired at the Marshall, Point Reyes, and Bolinas stations.
  • Code Humpback: An Installation by Charles Lindsay
    Photography Gallery.
    New York artist and first Artist in Residence at Palo Alto's SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Charles Lindsay presented a multi-media installation commissioned by the Bolinas Museum in honor of the Marconi Centennial. Composed of sound, video, and sculptural elements Code Humpback explores encrypted languages and forms of communication inspired by Morse code transmissions originating from the Bolinas Marconi/RCA station and recent inter-species communications discoveries lead by SETI Institute scientist Laurance Doyle.
  • Swept/Up: New Work by Wayne Campbell
    Coastal Marin Artists Gallery.
    Bolinas sculptor Wayne Campbell created new work inspired by personal history and hand built hidden wireless radios developed by American prisoners of war in order to connect with the outside world.
  • The Influence of Marconi & RCA in Local Communities
    History Room. Curated by Elia Haworth.
    The Marconi station installation in 1914 and the arrival of RCA in 1919, and later expansion in 1939 had a profound impact on the communities of Coastal Marin. This exhibit shared personal stories of families and individuals whose lives were entwined with these companies.
 

Event: Artist Charles Lindsay in Conversation with Astronomer Laurance Doyle
Date: Saturday, June 14
Location: Bolinas Community Center
Address: 14 Wharf Circle, Bolinas, CA 94924
Phone: 415-868-0330
Description: The public was invited to join SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Artist in Residence Charles Lindsay and SETI astronomer and information theory expert Laurance Doyle for a thought-provoking discussion about the possibilities of interspecies communications, recent advancements in the field related to humpback whale song, and the philosophical debate regarding the existence of sentient beings beyond planet earth. Both Charles and Laurance are based at Palo Alto's SETI Institute, which, until recently, was directed by Jill Tarter, 2009 recipient of the TED Prize, whose wish is to "empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company." Moderated by Eric McDougall.

 
Radiotelegrapher Denise Stoops and Transmitter Chief Steve Hawes sending Morse messages on Night of Nights.

Radiotelegrapher Denise Stoops and Transmitter Chief Steve Hawes  sending Morse messages on Night of Nights.

Event: Night of Nights: Commemorative Broadcast and Open House
Date: Saturday, July 12
Location: Historic RCA Coast Station KPH
Address: The KPH station is located at 17400 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and is on the route to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Watch for a cypress lined driveway on the right about a mile past the entry to Coast Guard station NMC. Directions from the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Phone: 415-464-5125
Description: Historic coast radio station KPH, built by RCA in 1929 on the Point Reyes Peninsula returned to the air for the annual commemorative broadcast marking the last commercial message sent by Morse code at 5 pm (PDT) in 1999. The Maritime Radio Historical Society's own KSM carries on the tradition of Morse code operations along with KPH and KFS, welcoming licensed operators to pound the key and the public to observe as they work ships and other contacts through the magic of Morse. The station was open to visitors beginning at 3 pm and transmissions are expected to continue until at least midnight.

 
Book cover of "Marconi: Father of Wireless, Grandfather of Radio, Great-Grandfather of the Cell Phone - The Story of the Race to Control Long-Distance Wireless," by Calvin D. Trowbridge, Jr.

Event: Marconi Author Calvin Trowbridge Jr. Book Talk and Reception
Date: Sunday, July 13
Location: Red Barn Classroom at Bear Valley. Directions.
Phone: 415-464-5125
Description: The public was invited to meet the author of Marconi: Father of Wireless, Grandfather of Radio, Great-Grandfather of the Cell Phone, The Story of the Race to Control Long-Distance Wireless. He spoke about Marconi's empire building, the competition and patent wars, and the fast pace of invention and technology change as the potential for radio became understood in the early 20th century. Books were available, and participants enjoyed a chat with the author and complimentary refreshments.

 
Historic photograph of the original Marconi trans-Pacific powerhouse and transmitting station which opened in 1914 in Bolinas.

The original Marconi trans-Pacific powerhouse and transmitting station which opened in 1914 in Bolinas.

Event: Historic Walking Tour: Explore the Bolinas Marconi/RCA Station and Grounds
Date: Saturday, August 2
Location: Bolinas Marconi/RCA station
Address: 451 Mesa Road; Bolinas, CA 94924
Phone: 415-868-0330
Description: Avid maritime radio historian Richard Dillman and fellow radio operators made history and technology come alive as participants walked the site of the Bolinas Marconi/RCA station. This transmitting station, originally built by Marconi in 1914, played an important role in communication history. The station provided trans-oceanic communication between continents until 1973 and ship-to-shore Morse code service through 1997. Participants saw the historic buildings, including the restored hotel, cottages, and original power house, the antenna fields, and toured the transmitter gallery and control room—the heart of the operations today.

 
RCA's office in San Francisco displaying their services.

RCA's office in San Francisco displaying their services.

Event: KPH Maritime Radio: The Heartbeat of the Pacific Basin
Date: Saturday, August 16
Location: Red Barn Classroom at Bear Valley. Directions.
Phone: 415-663-1200 x373
Description: Radio historian Bill Ruck presented an illustrated talk and an afternoon tour of the historic RCA building. Participants saw the control room with Morse operators in action at the Point Reyes radio station, and learned about the amazing history of KPH. KPH started out at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake and played a significant role during WWII and the Vietnam War. KPH was the call sign for the most powerful station on the coast—recognized by ship operators around the world—until 1999 when satellite communications replaced Morse code.

 
Frank Geisel, known as "Mr. KPH."

Frank Geisel, also known as "Mr. KPH."

Event: Radio Personalities of Wireless West Marin
Date: Friday, August 1 through Saturday, November 29
Location: Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History
Address: 15 Park Ave; Inverness, CA 94937
Phone: 415-669-1099
Description: The public was invited to discover the fascinating stories of the men and women who were part of the RCA family. Visitors had the oppotunity to look into the lives of riggers, telegraphers, engineers, and station workers through oral histories, memorabilia and photographs that reveal the joys and struggles of working for the communications giant. An opening reception was held on Saturday, August 9.

 

Event: Centennial Banquet
Date: Friday, September 19
Location: Buck Hall at the Marconi Conference Center State Historic Park
Address: 18500 California Hwy. 1; Marshall, CA 94940
Phone: 415-663-9020
Description: Tickets to this fundraiser were available online through the Maritime Radio Historical Society at www.radiomarine.org
The banquet was held in the renovated powerhouse at the original Marconi receiving station site on the scenic east shore of Tomales Bay. Participants mingled for drinks on the terrace overlooking the bay and then enjoyed a banquet in the historic atmosphere to celebrate the first trans-Pacific wireless transmission across the Pacific to Hawaii in September of 1914. The event was a fund raiser for the Maritime Radio Historical Society. The benefit supported their ongoing efforts in partnership with the National Park Service to preserve and restore the historic equipment and operations at the radio sites and make them available for public tours and education. President of the Maritime Radio Historical Society, Richard Dillman was the featured speaker, along with a surprise guest.

Stay tuned to KWMR 90.5 in Point Reyes and 89.9 in Bolinas, or online at kwmr.org for more details about upcoming events, interviews, and programming celebrating 100 years of radio in West Marin. For more information about any of the events, contact Carola DeRooy at 415-464-5125 or by email.

Top of Page

 
Banner: Marconi Centennial Partners 688x190 National Park Service ArrowheadBolinas MuseumJack Mason Museum of West Marin HistoryKWMR - West Marin Community RadioThe New School at CommonwealPoint Reyes National Seashore AssociationMarconi Conference Center State Historic ParkMaritime Radio Historical Society

Did You Know?