Discover the history of ship-to shore radio at the site of "The World's Greatest Coastal Station"!
Introduction: In 1914, radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi’s company built a wireless receiving station here paired with a transmitting station in Marion, Massachusetts intended to provide commercial point-to-point radio service between the United States and Norway. Following World War One and with the intervention of the US government, Marconi’s American assets were acquired by the newly formed Radio Corporation of America. By 1921, RCA’s Chatham station with call sign WCC was in full operation, but now for maritime ship-to-shore service. It would soon become the largest US coastal station. The campus of 10 original buildings on 11.3 acres has been preserved by the Town of Chatham as the Marconi-RCA National Register Historic District, and the original Operating Building is now home to our museum.
What You Will See: Through informative panels and interactive video displays, you will explore radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi’s life and legacy, the role of maritime radio in world events, ship-to-shore communication with the actual shipboard radio from the hospital ship SS Hope, and artifacts from Chatham Radio/WCC’s history. Your first stop will be the new “Golden Age of Trans-Atlantic Ocean Liners” exhibit which tells the unique stories of six famous 20th Century passenger ships through photographs, graphics and video clips. You will get a sense of what it would have been like to be aboard, famous people you might have met, and historical events you could have witnessed. These ships carried dignitaries the rich and famous, ordinary travelers, generations of immigrants and victorious armies. Chatham Radio/WCC linked them all to their loved ones and businesses. Experience firsthand how a radio operator touching a Morse code key in Chatham could communicate with counterparts aboard ships sailing the seven seas, and learn about the talented and skilled people who conceived, built and operated Chatham Radio / WCC.
From 1942 through 1945, Chatham Radio played a special role in defeating Germany's Third Reich during the World War II Battle of the Atlantic by intercepting Enigma-encrypted wireless messages between the Kriegsmarine’s headquarters and its ships at sea. “Station C”, as it was known then, forwarded these intercepts to Washington, D.C. for decoding. Station C also alerted the Navy’s radio direction-finding network to locate and track enemy vessels. Our "Navy Years" exhibit features working electronic Enigma cipher machine simulators, inviting you to try your hand at message encryption.
During your visit, take a few minutes to browse the unique items in our Museum Shop. And, before you leave take a walk up the Antenna Field Trail, the museum’s free outdoor gallery. The trail is a winding path through the flora and fauna of Cape Cod with interpretive signs describing the station’s antennas and history. Some of the antennas are scaled replicas of the originals, actively used by amateur radio operators to communicate around the world. The Antenna Field Trail is open year ‘round during daylight hours.