Cape Cod National Seashore | MARCONI STATION SITE

Marconi Station Site at Cape Cod National Seashore

Marconi Station Site at Cape Cod National Seashore


See the Historic Sites web page for an interactive location map.


The Marconi Station Site at Cape Cod National Seashore is where Guglielmo Marconi and his Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America built the first United States transatlantic wireless station between 1901 and 1902. The first transmission was on January 19, 1903. The station remained in operation until 1917 when it was closed for security reasons at the outset of America’s involvement in World War I.

Cape Cod was chosen because it is the easternmost landmass in the United States. However, as early as 1906, Marconi employees were worried about erosion. A few years after the station closed, the equipment and transmitting towers were removed, but the buildings were left in place. All eventually toppled off the eroding cliffs. Winter storms wash away the Wellfleet area of Cape Cod at an average of three feet per year. Scientists predict the entire land mass of Cape Cod will disappear within the next two thousand years.

The Marconi Station Site has its own parking lot, and there is no fee to use it. There is also a small picnic area and restroom facility, plus you can start a hike on the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail. There is no access to the beach.

Marconi Station picnic area and restroom at Cape Cod National Seashore

Marconi Station picnic area and restroom at Cape Cod National Seashore

To make a loop tour around the Marconi Station Site, start by taking the paved path from the parking lot that zigzags up to an overlook of the Atlantic Ocean. Here you will find some wayside exhibits about Marconi posted on the observation deck, and you can get a nice view of the ocean.

Paved path to an Atlantic Ocean overlook at the Marconi Station Site, Cape Cod National Seashore

Paved path to an Atlantic Ocean overlook at the Marconi Station Site, Cape Cod National Seashore

Atlantic Ocean observation deck at the Marconi Station Site, Cape Cod National Seashore

Atlantic Ocean observation deck at the Marconi Station Site, Cape Cod National Seashore

View from the observation deck at the Marconi Station Site, Cape Cod National Seashore

View from the observation deck at the Marconi Station Site, Cape Cod National Seashore

Another paved path connects the first observation area to a second. From the second location you used to get a better view, but due to erosion the observation area is getting so close to the edge of the cliff that the National Park Service put up a fence to keep people away from the edge. Prior to the fence, you could risk your life for a good photo by walking all the way to the edge, but not any more. The beach you can see to your left is Le Count Hollow Beach, which is managed by the town of Wellfleet.

Paved path between the two observation decks at Cape Cod National Seashore's Marconi Station Site

Paved path between the two observation decks at Cape Cod National Seashore’s Marconi Station Site

View towards Le Count Hollow Beach from the Marconi Station Site at Cape Cod National Seashore

View towards Le Count Hollow Beach from the Marconi Station Site at Cape Cod National Seashore

More important than the view, the second observation area is the actual location of the Marconi Station. A memorial marks the site of the station.

Memorial marks the site of America’s first transatlantic wireless station at Cape Cod National Seashore

Memorial marks the site of America’s first transatlantic wireless station at Cape Cod National Seashore

From the Marconi Station site, there is another short trail that dead ends at a fence. Here you will find some construction debris, including a chunk of wood chained to a rock. There are no wayside exhibits identifying the debris, so I don’t know if this is all that remains of the radio station, but the National Park Service sure doesn’t want anyone walking away with this stuff. Once done taking a look, another path leads back to the parking lot.

Possible remnants of the Marconi wireless station at Cape Cod National Seashore

Possible remnants of the Marconi wireless station at Cape Cod National Seashore

People think of Guglielmo Marconi as the inventor of the radio, and while this may or may not be true, it was not radio for entertainment (music, news, etc.), but radio for communication. Furthermore, he did not invent the wireless transmission of signals; that was Heinrich Hertz. What he did do was figure out how to transmit and receive the signals over long distances, and he was the first to devise a commercially viable way to use the invention. His “radio” was broadcasting Morse Code and was exactly the same thing as a telegraph, only without wires. In fact, the term for the process is wireless telegraphy. His invention did lead to the eventual transmission of voices and music, the radio we know today.

SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

There are a few wayside exhibits to read at the Marconi Station Site at Cape Cod National Seashore, but that’s about it other than taking in the views at the overlooks. Unless you plan to hike the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail or have a bite to eat, give yourself fifteen minutes for a stop at the site.

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Last updated on February 29, 2024
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