The Spirit of Radio

The Marconi Hotel can be found nestled in the hills near Marshall, California, that was originally built as recreational lodgings for Marconi employees.

Published: 15th November 2014 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th November 2014 02:41 PM   |  A+A-


Not everyone can boast of being radio active on holiday. That’s because very few people know that Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio, also built a hotel. The Marconi Hotel can be found nestled in the hills near Marshall, California, that was originally built as recreational lodgings for Marconi employees. Marrconi had chosen G White, a New York engineering company, to design and build the Marshall trans-Pacific radio receiving station in 1913 and 1914. White also created the centrepeice of the station—a luxurious retreat for his employees and visitors. But it’s not just the kind of guest house that owners make for their staff: it is an impressive structure with a wide veranda that runs around it. The Marconi Hotel has 35 rooms, a large library, game room, a lounge to relax with a cigar and the newspapers, and a huge dining hall.

War changes everything and it was the case with Marconi Hotel too. The US Army requisitioned the building during World War I, took over the transmitters and the hotel became the living quarters for the officers and men. The hotel went through many avatars. After the war ended, it languished until the early 1960s, and was converted into a rehab facility by the Synanon Organisation. Eventually, it was christened the “Church of Synanon” in 1975. For a decade, it functioned as a rehab centre for alcoholics and drug addicts, until the residents named themselves an “alternative lifestyle community”. The movement, founded by Charles E “Chuck” Dederich Sr, required its members to play the “Synanon Game—self-examination done though group truth-telling sessions that came to be known as the “Synanon Game..” The church had quirky rules for its congregation: the women had to shave their heads and the men had to get vasectomies done if they wanted to be part of the community. By 1980, scandals of gun running and murder forced the Church of Synanon to close shop and was under suspicion for hoarding weapons and the leader was charged with attempted murder, essentially ending the church.

Evetually the government took over the Marconi hotel and grounds, which was turned into the Marconi Conference Centre State Historic Park. Today, the hotel is not functional. Many plans have been drawn up by the local council to renovate the historic building, turn it into a museum, but so far, it’s not got a bandwidth yet.


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