Historical Sites

Fourth Cliff Lifesaving Station

21 River Rd, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA

Owned By: Private Owner

A Humane Society Lifesaving Station was located at the south corner of River Road and Cliff Road, from 1879 to 1915. Some remnants of the foundation remain.

The Humane Society was a precursor to the U. S. Coast Guard. While we consider this an important historic site, there is currently no marker in place. Please respect private property!


The Fourth Cliff Lifesaving Station (part of The Humane Society, which later became the United States Coast Guard), was located in a remote spot on the south side of Fourth Cliff, just under the big bluff. It was built in 1879 and burned down in 1915 or 1919. It was not rebuilt, because by then the Coast Guard was using different boats and different ports.

Captain J. H. Smith was the first keeper of the Fourth Cliff Lifesaving Station. He was succeeded by Captain Frederick Stanley, who served for many years. The Lifesaving Station had a crew of 7 men and a 25-foot lifeboat. The northern patrol route was across the gravel road on the shingle beach between Fourth and Third Cliffs, all the way up to First Cliff, along the water. The southern route was to the mouth of the river, about 3 miles, near present-day Rexhame Beach.

The Hotel Humarock was about 1.5 miles south of the lifesaving station. In between were low-lying sand dunes. The walk between was tough in inclement weather. The patrolmen were blasted with wind, sand, salt spray and water. Their job was to watch for ships in distress, and to employ lifeboats, surfboats, and the breeches buoy to conduct rescues.

The Sea Street Bridge in Marshfield, which crosses the South River to Marshfield Avenue in Humarock, is named for Captain Frederick Stanley. It was built in 1888, rebuilt in 1952, and formally dedicated in 1998, to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Portland Gale. It was replaced in 2007.

This land is within the region of the Massachusett (or Massachuseuk). To learn more about local Native American tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mattakeeset band of the Massachusett, and the Massachusett tribe at Ponkapoag, both share information on their websites. 

Trail Description

No trails. This historic site is now occupied by private homes and public roads.

Habitats and Wildlife

This historic spot is located on the southern slope of Fourth Cliff. The waters here drain to the Atlantic Ocean. New Inlet, the mouth of the North River, is located on the northern side of the cliff.

  • Historic postcard image of a wooden 2-story cottage.
  • A photograph of a roadway with a street sign. The road is lined on both sides with stones, and there are houses in the distance.
  • Historic black & white image of a wooden 2-story cottage with a pole on the waterfront side of the property.
  • A photograph of a roadway with a street sign. The road is lined with stones, and there are houses in the distance.
21 River Rd, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA

Historic Site: Yes

Park: No

Beach: No

Boat Launch: No

Lifeguards: No

Parking: No public parking available.

Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: No

Scenic Views: No

Waterbody/Watershed: Atlantic Ocean

Other Things to Do at This Site