Between Marconi And Today’s State Park
RCA continued to hold title to the Marshall site until 1947. In the ensuing years, the property changed hands several times before it was acquired by the Synanon Foundation, then a Santa Monica based drug rehabilitation organization. Shortly afterward, the Marconi property became the “world headquarters” of Synanon, which also acquired other nearby ranch properties.
In the late 1960’s, Synanon began to de-emphasize its rehabilitation programs, and became a self-declared “alternative lifestyle community.” At its height, it had about 1700 members, a large number of whom lived at the Marshall property. In 1975, Synanon underwent another transformation, declaring itself a “church” and amassing a large cache of weapons. In 1979, a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles by the local newspaper, The Point Reyes Light, began to expose Synanon’s finances, internal practices and abuses in the local community. The state of California launched a special investigation into Synanon’s affairs and in 1980 Charles Dedrich, long-time leader of the organization, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. As one of the largest, longest-lived, and certainly the most economically successful group of its kind, it should be recognized that Synanon will be the subject of scholarly interest and research.
During Synanon’s occupation of the property, several buildings were constructed, as well as a variety of landscape elements added. The buildings include a series of contemporary coastal shed-style residences and several corrugated metal structures scattered about the property. The pond next to the tennis courts and the vegetation planted close to the hotel and other buildings are the most notable of the landscape elements added.
The Park Today
The antennas at the Bolinas Transmitting Station are silent; their last commercial message was sent in 1997. The Marshall Receiving Station, last used as a radio station in 1939, was purchased by the San Francisco Foundation from Synanon in 1980 with the help of the Buck Trust. Four years later they transferred the property to the California State Parks Foundation, which in turn gifted the property to the State of California as a conference center in 1989. The Marconi Conference Center opened its doors in January of 1990.
Today this historic State Park is a place where communications of a difference sort echo thought through the halls of the grand buildings. Marconi continues in the tradition of communication by providing meeting and retreat services for the Bay Area.