Kahuku Marconi Wireless Station, O’ahu, Hawaii

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By Jonathan H

Kahuku Marconi Hotel
The Marconi Wireless Station at Kahuku on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.

Coordinates of Marconi Station Long ago, before my grandfather was born, a young Italian named Guglielmo Marconi developed a process of communicating without the aid of land-line telegraph cables. The birth of wireless telegraphy was embraced by the British during their Second Boer War, but the promise of communication across vast oceans between families and friends, businesses and diplomatic bureaus was where wireless truly shined.

I recently traveled to Hawaii to visit a friend (ostensibly), but also to explore the island’s many historical locations (I have my ulterior motives). Earlier, I had spoken of the abandoned sugar refinery on the North Shore and its incredible ties with bird guano (believe me, there’s a connection). In the future, I will talk about Battery Harlow in Diamond Head, a World War I-era array of guns designed to defend the new U.S. territory.

Most important, though, is this station on the North Shore (The Kahuku Marconi Station). In the details of this station, one can parse out a history and trace the root & origins of the Military-Industrial Complex. Today, parts of the station are occupied by a krill farm. The old powerhouse, which supplied the 300 kW towers with their much-needed electricity, is now full of temporary above-ground pools of growing shrimp (and large bull frogs, as well). The old “Hotel” as it was known (which often housed unmarried Marconi workers or visiting dignitaries including Jack London himself) is a crumbling and empty bone.

Map of the Marconi Station
Image courtesy Library of Congress
If there is any place in Hawaii that desperately needs National Register status, it is this place. When World War II broke out, the Marconi wireless towers were no longer needed (long-wave radio transmission was a thing of the past), but the original line of towers was replaced by an airstrip that sent out cargo planes to their destinations across the Pacific Rim.

Wireless Station Hotel Exterior

I visited the Kahuku Station during the day. The krill farm, though active, was eerily vacant of people. A gentle breeze — like any Hawaiian breeze, warm and humid — came in from the North. The palms danced to the cadence of the wind, which wound its way through the broken window frames of the Hotel. Krill pumps hummed, and I imagined how similar they sounded to the original transformers for the wireless towers.

Transformers at Kahuku
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
The humidity has a different sort of effect on the plaster and paint of abandoned buildings. Living in California, it was a rare sort of sight for me to see. Each layer of paint peeled away to reveal an older, more colorul version of the wall. And the arched doorways and stairwells gave me an idea of its once grand design — despite the hotel’s utilitarian purpose.

I think the Kahuku Station and its related history deserve so much attention that — in the coming days — I will post a three-part entry on Wireless Telelgraphy during World War I. I hope you enjoy the history as much as I did. This is meant only as an introduction to a fascinating story about government, communication, corporations, and war.

59 comments on “Kahuku Marconi Wireless Station, O’ahu, Hawaii

  1. Richard Evans on said:

    Am the steward (voluntary) of the Radio Towers Property of the Sippican Lands Trust in Marion, Massachusetts. Radio Towers was once the Marconi Wireless transmitter site here. Much of the original Marconi era buildings have survived, as well as remnants of the 14 400 foot tall towers which supported the flat top antenna array at Marion. All that remains of the antenna are the tower foundations, the guy wire anchors (4 per antenna), and the 6 tuning coil bases. The field is overgrown now since the destruction of the towers in 1960, but the access road running the length of the field is still open. The Alexanderson Alternator at Haiku was transported from Marion during WW II.

  2. Steve Eshleman on said:

    Mr. Evans,

    I would love to hear more about the Marion wireless station. My late grandfather Gerald J.C. Eshleman had links to both Kahuku as well as Marion & the wireless station in Tuckerton, NJ. In fact, I owe my very existence to the fact that my grandfather was sent to Kahuku by RCA in 1920 on temporary assignment to assist with installation of an Alexanderson Alternator there. At the time he as a 28 year old single man fresh back from Army service in WW1. Of course in those days the only way to get to Hawaii was by ocean liner. He sailed from San Francisco on the SS Matsonia. There was also a 25 year old single young lady from San Luis Obispo on board that same ship heading to Oahu to take up a teaching position at the Kahuku elementary school. And waddiya know, the two met on the ship or shortly after and fell in love! She quit her job to return to the mainland when my grandfather’s assignment in Kahuku was complete. They married & returned to NJ where my grandfather was engineer in charge of the Tuckerton Wireless station from 1920 until it was decommissioned in 1949. They had four children, one of whom was my late father. After Tuckerton was decommissioned in ’49 (and later dismantled in 1955), he was sent to the station in Marion, which by then had something to do with the Air Force, and finished his career there and retired in 1957 after 40 years service with RCA. During his retirement he lived in Pennsylvania and returned to Marion often & had a fishing boat there. He passed away at age 86 in 1978.

    Please email be with any info you have on Marion, an especially if you find any reference to my grandfather.

    Thanks!

    Steve Eshleman
    Peoria, AZ

  3. Dick Evans on said:

    Just want to check and see if this link still works. Am still the steward of the Marconi antenna site at Marion. The buildings here are still largely complete, the antennas are long gone, as at Kahuku, but their supports and guy wire anchors, etc. are still intact here. I conduct tours for the current owners, the Sippican Lands Trust here in Marion. We are still well familiar with the Eshleman name here. The Sippican Historical Society has some record of him, as well.

    Hope you are well,
    Dick

  4. Dick Evans on said:

    By the way, one of the Marion Alexanderson LF transmitters was secretly moved to Haiku, Oahu (near Kaneohe) during WW2 (1943) to communicate with submarines. It was installed in a volcano crater.

  5. Steve Eshleman on said:

    I’d like to see what those records have to say . I have a short clip of home movies on VHS of my grandfather out fishing on his boat off what looks like Marion, circa 1955. I am currently on my own boat near Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast of BC Canada.

  6. Dick Evans on said:

    I will dig around and see what I can find for you. They were news clips, I think. I have a fishing boat here in Marion, a 23 foot, center console rig.

  7. Steve Eshleman on said:

    We have a 1971 Albin 25 pocket trawler. Just got back to Pender Harbour from a 5 day run up Jervis Inlet to Chatterbox Falls at the head of Princess Louisa Inlet. 105 NM round trip on 8.2 gallons of diesel fuel.

    My half brother Mike Eshleman works at the Pursuit Boats factory in Ft. Pierce, FL.

  8. Raymond Cannefax on said:

    I HAVE A SERIES OF PHOTOS OF THE KAHUKU, HAWAII RELAY STATION WHICH MAY BE RESTORED IF FINANCIALLY POSSIBLE. LET ME KNOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE COPIES OF THESE PHOTOS TAKEN OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS.

  9. Steven Eshleman on said:

    Certainly would like to see copies of those photos. We did a NCL America cruise around the islands 10 years ago & got a pre-cruise bus tour of Oahu, but didn’t have the time or means to see Kahuku or tour the USS Missouri. Did tour the Punch Bowl cemetery & USS Arizona memorial though.

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