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eighborhoods Marin

Summer 2010

A look at the unique nooks that make the county a special place to live

A publication of the


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eighborhoods Marin



Black Point & Green Point


Pacheco Valle

Los Ranchitos

Loch Lomond


ut of sight! When people think of Marin, they may conjure thoughts of the Golden Gate Bridge, the sweeping Headlands or the winding 101 corridor. And while the shady groves of downtown Mill Valley and the touristy avenues of the Sausalito waterfront hold their indelible charms—tucked away in Marin are the neighborhoods which hold the key to the county’s illustrious past and mysterious modern allure. From the seafaring settlements at Marshall and Tomales and the counterculture hideaways of Bolinas and Muir Beach to the undiscovered charms of San Quentin Village and Black Point, the out-of-the-way county pockets are overflowing with history, beauty and personality like nowhere else. In this edition of the Pacific Sun’s Neighborhoods series, we’ll explore the valleys and vistas behind the county curtain; we’ll unmask the faces of Marin you may never have seen—the hidden Marin.


Kent Woodlands


Trestle Glen Muir Beach Alexander Ave.

CONTENTS ALEXANDER AVE. ................................10 BLACK POINT & GREEN POINT ...........12 BOLINAS ..............................................14 KENT WOODLANDS ............................16 LOCH LOMOND ....................................18 LOS RANCHITOS .................................20 MARSHALL ..........................................22 MUIR BEACH ........................................24 INVERNESS ..........................................26 PACHECO VALLE..................................28 TRESTLE GLEN ....................................30 SEMINARY ...........................................32 TOMALES .............................................34

ON THE COVER (Clockwise from top left) Marshall, Alexander Ave., Tomales, Muir Beach, Bolinas, Seminary DESIGN & MAPS Gabriel Lieb PHOTOGRAPHS Julie Vader, Brindl Markle WRITERS Samantha Campos, Brooke Jackson, Matthew Stafford, Sarah Strand, Jason Walsh

PaciďŹ c Sun


835 Fourth St. Suite B (entrance on Cijos St.), San Rafael 94901; Telephone: (415) 485-6700, Fax (415) 485-6226. E-Mail: Entire contents of this publication Copyright Š2010 Embarcadero Media Marineighborhoods

Summer 2010 7

PaciďŹ c Sun


10 Sun April 2, 20 From the Pacific t from ghway blowou Fearing a hi (and feeling res r her two bald ti in the face of he ss le lp he y rl � utte et ar “M , t) oymen lengthy unempl moved—and as of Kentfield w the “extremely comforted—by aff at Cain’s Tire � st compassionate ping, Broke and wee ce l. ae af R n Sa in vi ad r fo op the sh Maret went to ibly hold out on a ss e could po r on how long sh , but instead met the owne se ha rc nd ki pu h e new-tir a man wit daughter and g and said, Pat, his lovely hu a in r loped he eyes who enve outfitted with ow N � u. yo of re ca ke ta ll e that dried “We’ tires for a pric a couple of used arvels at the “above and et m her tears, Mar n’s “more than of duty� of Cai beyond the call mily. � fa just a business

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Summer 2010 9

ALEXANDER AVE., where Marin history meets Marin luxury

f course you know Alexander Avenue, the road you take from downtown Sausalito to the Golden Gate Bridge when you want to avoid the traffic on the Waldo Grade. It begins just after Bridgeway becomes Second Street and Second Street becomes South Street. Then there’s a block of zillion-dollar homes with bay views that would make Cezanne weep, and before you know it you’re winding up fog-damp Coast Range, Fort Baker on the left, the grade on the right, Golden Gate National Recreation Area all around you. You duck under 101, veer up the approach, and there it is, the most famous bridge in the world. Directly below you is a 110-year-old lighthouse, and just to the east are three equally venerable coastal fortifications, a worldfamous children’s museum, a Coast Guard station, a yacht club, an endangered butterfly habitat, an eco-lodge with spa, ballroom and Michelin-rated restaurant and a think tank for scientists and government leaders out to save our crumbling planet. Not bad for a few square miles of Marin County real estate. The area we’ve deemed the Alexander Avenue neighborhood (bordered by Highway 101 on the west, Alexander Avenue on the north and San Francisco Bay on the east and south) was a popular spot among the Coast Miwok, who reveled in the region’s streams, wetlands and often fogless climate and established villages and ceremonial sites nearby. The party ended in 1775 when the Spanish galleon San Carlos sailed through the Golden Gate, bringing civilization and venereal disease to the heretofore content locals. During the Mexican era the area was part of William Richardson’s massive Rancho Saucelito land grant, and as soon as California joined the Union in 1850, President Millard Fillmore ordered a military fort built at Lime Point on the Golden Gate’s northern shore to defend his strategic new harbor. The feds weren’t able to acquire the land until the end of the Civil War, though, and Lime Point Military Reservation and its barracks, offices and storehouses weren’t constructed until the 1870s. Four coastal-defense batteries were built at the same time; one of them, the still (somewhat) extant Battery Cavallo, was the most technologically advanced bunker on the Pacific Coast, a lowprofile fortification built into a bluff above Horseshoe Cove with angled gun emplacements Julie Vade r

separated by earthen hillocks with tunnels, storerooms and magazines. It wasn’t until the Spanish-American War, though, that the battery (and two others in the same vicinity, Yates and Duncan) was actually armed. At this der xan time Lime Point was reAle Ave. named Fort Baker after Edward D. Baker, an Oregon senator who was killed in action during the Civil War. Construction began on new and improved Colonial Revival barracks, officers’ quarters and community buildings situated around a grassy parade ground. The post more or less shut down at the end of World War I, but after Pearl Harbor it was reactivated as a mine depot responsible for the maintenance of the 300 underwater explosives guarding the Golden Gate during World War II. Today’s Fort Baker offers a wide array of sights, activities and attractions. Just under the Golden Gate Bridge’s north tower is Lime Point Light, a 20-foot brick edifice that’s been guiding mariners through the channel since 1883. It’s managed by the U.S. Coast Guard, which has led search and rescue missions (and saved stranded kite surfers) from a station at the old mine depot for the past 23 years. A 23-acre natural habitat for the endangered Mission Blue butterfly is just inland, not far from the retrofitted and renovated old camp buildings. And at the neighboring Bay Area Discovery Museum kids can nurture their curiosity and creativity through hands-on activities, exhibits, performances and day camps. In the not-so-distant future Fort Baker will also be the headquarters of Starfleet Command, as any Star Trek aficionado will tell you, but for the time being it’s a wonderful place to hike among the lupine, oaks and poppies, take in matchless views of the city, the bay and that big orange bridge overarching, try your luck at the fishing pier, enjoy a cocktail at Mike’s Place or Farley Bar, get a massage at the Cavallo Point Healing Arts Center, check out the California cuisine at Murray Circle Restaurant, explore a shipwreck at the Discovery Museum, cuddle under a blanket in a rocking chair on one of the old columned porches or find out how you can keep the planet green and breathing at the Institute at the Golden Gate. Oh, and one of those Alexander Avenue houses is on the market for $3.4 million, just in case you’re looking. —MATTHEW STAFFORD ALEXANDER AVENUE AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Sausalito station house, 333 Johnson St. LIBRARY Sausalito Library, 420 Litho St. PARKS Fort Baker, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Tiffany Park, Yee Tock Chee Park POST OFFICE Sausalito Post OfďŹ ce, 150 Harbor Dr.

xander Ave. t Baker sits serenely below Ale Former military housing at For

10 PaciďŹ c Sun

PUBLIC SCHOOLS Bayside Elementary, 630 Nevada St; Tamalpais High School, 700 Miller Ave., Mill Valley

Reason #17... 

Cycling out to West Marin and enjoying a well-deserved sticky bun in Point Reyes As part of our centennial celebration and just in time for summer, we’ve launched 100 Reasons Why We Love Where We Live. Taking inspiration from our tagline, we saw this as a perfect opportunity for all of us to share with one another the multitude of reasons why we think Marin and Sonoma are such special places to live. So be sure to visit our blogs, Facebook or Twitter to learn why we love where we live. We hope you’ll share your reasons, too.

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Summer 2010 11

BLACK POINT & GREEN POINT, the northern lights of Novato Julie Vade r

The Black Point boat launch

on the Petaluma River.

12 Pacific Sun

BLACK POINT & GREEN POINT AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Novato Fire District, station 2, 450 Atherton Ave. LIBRARY Novato Library, 1720 Novato Blvd. PARKS Deer Island Preserve POST OFFICE Novato Post Office, 1537 South Novato Blvd. Julie Vade r

f you’ve taken a ride up Highway 37 toward Sonoma, you’ve driven right by two of the most interesting neighborhoods in Novato: Green Point and Black Point. The area is a mix of marshland and oak-covered hills with a rich history dating back to the early 1800s. What began as a land grant from Mexico in 1839 grew into ranching country and shipbuilding, then became a summer outpost for San Franciscans, with cottages on the river. The “Old Black Point” to the south of Highway 37 contains the original subdivision with winding, treacherous roads, while Green Point (a name given in last 20 years), the region north of 37, was developed more recently. In 1839, Governor Alvarado granted the 8,000-acre Novato Rancho to Fernando Feliz. The rancho included what is now downtown Novato, deep into the hills to the west and east to the Petaluma River and Black Point. By 1850, settlers had moved into the area along the river, using the land for hunting, fishing and boating. In addition, Black Point’s (encompassing presentday Green and Black) schooner landing was used for shipping livestock and lumber and had its own boat works. Black oaks were cut from the hillsides and used, in part, for shipbuilding on Mare Island, including the “knees” for the U.S.S. Saginaw. Beginning in 1879 the Northwestern Railroad brought materials and passengers into the region and within a few years the trains crossed the river and went all the way to Glen Ellen. Besides the trains, ferries were the only other way to access the region until the county put in a road out from Novato in 1884. The original Novato Rancho changed hands a few times until 1892, when owner Frank DeLong had to give it up to pay his debts. The next year the Black Point portion was taken over by the Home and Farm Company, which subdivided the 5,200 acres into 5- and 10-acre plots. By the turn of the century, Black Point was being split into smaller ranching and agricultural parcels and town lots that were bordered by large ranches. The subdivision was called “Grandview” and riverfront parcels were developed into summer and weekend cottages and cabins for San Francisco residents. They came by ferry and train up from Sausalito and enjoyed the services of the Black Point Inn. A hybrid of sorts, the Inn was built in 1901 and was a restaurant, grocery store and

post office that held Sunday mass given in t & k Po in t by a priest brought up Blaceen Po Gr from San Rafael. After World War II, more permanent residents moved into The Point and housing was expanded. In the 1970s the Renaissance Pleasure Faire set up shop for bawdy Elizabethan fun on the west side of the hills. The Faire wanted to have a permanent, year-round spot at Black Point Forest, but those plans were scotched in the late 1990s when that area was developed into a golf course and club with spacious houses surrounding the course’s midsection. During this era, Green Point had grown from a handful of fishing cabins on the river to million-dollar houses sprinkled through the hills. Today the neighborhood is a charming mix of rustic and sophisticated. The Petaluma River is a scenic border and nearby there is a marina, bait shop and boat launch for recreational pleasures. The river and its surrounds teem with bird and marine life, while on the west side of the crouching hills are the vast greens of the golf course, if teeing up takes your fancy. It has been said that the area got its name from a squatter named Black John back in the rancho days, but it seems more fitting that the Points probably took their names from the green and black of the native black oak, a stalwart symbol of the rich history bisected by Highway 37. —BROOKE JACKSON

The schooner landing was use d for shipping livestock and lumber throughout the late 19th cen tury.

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BOLINAS, no sign of the times... Julie Vader

View of Bolinas Lagoon from

Wharf Road.

14 PaciďŹ c Sun

BOLINAS AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Bolinas Fire Protection District, 100 Mesa Rd. LIBRARY 14 Wharf Rd. PARKS Bolinas Park, north side of Brighton Ave. POST OFFICE 20 Brighton Ave. PUBLIC SCHOOLS Stinson Beach School, State Route 1, Stinson Beach; Bolinas-Stinson Elementary School, 125 Olema Bolinas Rd., Bolinas; Tamalpais High School, 700 Miller Ave., Mill Valley Julie Vade r

ne of Northern Californiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most famous frontier coastal towns, Bolinas has long been considered Marinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s little rebel. While best known for its reputation as a reclusive outpostâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;residents have taken down numerous Highway One road signs marking the way into townâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Bolinas was once a thriving lumber port and prosperous county leader, rivaled only by San Rafael in population and commerce.Located approximately 30 miles north of San Francisco and 10 miles west of San Rafael, the unincorporated town of Bolinas is just 1.4 square miles of land bordering Bolinas Lagoon, Bolinas Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The ridge of Mount Tamalpais separates Bolinas from the eastern region of Marinâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a geography thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s alternately fostered Bolinasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;boomâ&#x20AC;? time as well as its isolation. In 1834, Rafael Garcia was awarded a land grant by the Mexican government for a 9,000-acre tract called Rancho Baulenes, which included what is now known as Bolinas. But he didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stay long. Th ree years later, Garcia moved his family and cattle to Olema Valley, leaving Rancho Baulenes to his brotherin-law, Gregorio Briones, who, in turn, initiated redwood logging on Bolinas Ridge, importing the help of hard-drinking Yankee lumbermen. By 1850, more than half of Marinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s total populationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;200 of 352 peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;resided in Bolinas. Sawmills and saloons quickly sprang up in the area. But soon the silt-fi lled lagoon and wharf could no longer support the ships and schooners needed to load lumber and cargo. By the 1870s, the introduction of the railroadâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;along with San Francisco Bay ferriesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;meant the end of West Marinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s prosperity as a lumber port. The eastern communities prospered and Bolinas reclaimed its geographic frontier status, for good or bad. The construction of a road (now Highway One) connecting Bolinas with Sausalito not only aided West Marin agriculture, but also introduced a bevy of visitors to the rugged coastline. The end of the 19th century brought some sobrietyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;by way of the Christian temperance movementâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and artists, summer travelers and urban refugees moved in where the lumbermen once reigned. And by mid-century, the surfers, poets, writers, musicians and hippies also ambled in. The Chevron oil spill

of 1971 (near the Golden Gate Bridge) brought forth a slew of environmental activists who arrived to help clean up the beaches and the marine life, and Boli never left. Notable nas people whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve either lived in or passed through Bolinas include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Martha Stewart, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Richard Brautigan, Jim Carroll, Aram Saroyan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Joel Coen, Gary Snyder, Anne Lamott, Frances McDormand, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Bill Niman and Alice Waters. But with its newfound status as quirky getaway, Bolinas experienced a bit of a dip in residency, as real estate prices skyrocketed and much of its artistic community left, although not in spirit. As a result, the townâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s population has remained relatively steady over the past decade at around 1,200. Whether to seek refuge from the hustle of metropolitan life, inspiration in the coastâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ragged natural beauty or to establish a more â&#x20AC;&#x153;meaningfulâ&#x20AC;? existence on the fringe of conventional society, Bolinas offers more than just a place to liveâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;provided you can fi nd your way there. â&#x20AC;&#x201D;SAMANTHA CAMPOS

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Summer 2010 15

KENT WOODLANDS, a view to a thrill... Julie Vade r

A newer house in Kent Woodl


16 Pacific Sun

KENT WOODLANDS AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Kentfield Fire Department, 1004 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. LIBRARY Larkspur Library, 400 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur PARKS Creekside Park; Baltimore Canyon Preserve POST OFFICE Kentfield Post Office, 822 College Ave., Kentfield PUBLIC SCHOOLS Bacich School, 25 McAllister Ave., Kentfield; Kent Middle School, 800 College Ave., Kentfield; Redwood High School, 395 Doherty Drive, Larkpur

Julie Vade r

ocated on the ridges just under Mount Tamalpais, Kent Woodlands is a tony enclave with panoramic views in all directions. The mountain defines this area in many ways from weather to recreation and natural beauty to the hilly terrain that surrounds the sizeable houses. At the base of the neighborhood is the College of Marin, to the west is Ross and Larkspur lies to the east. The Kent family settled much of the Ross Valley and donated land to causes such as Muir Woods. William Kent had a hand in creating a park to protect Mt. Tam, and deeded 204 acres of Steep Ravine to it. The original 23 acres for College of Marin was given by them as well as the railroad depot site. In 1936 the family transformed the town of Kentfield by putting 500 acres in subdivided building lots on the market. Billed as an affluent, exclusive development, Kent Woodlands continues to fulfill that label with large homes selling for multi-million dollar price tags. But the area had quite humble beginnings as part of a large land grant called Rancho Punta de Quentin. Owned by Juan Cooper, the rancho extended from the peninsula we now know as San Quentin, a major otter habitat at the time, all the way to San Anselmo. James Ross, a San Francisco businessman, bought the land in 1857 and developed commerce using the canal system. Flat bottomed barges went up Corte Madera Slough to Ross Landing, bringing liquor and groceries and picked up timber, dairy products and hay bound for San Francisco. Albert Kent bought most of Ross Valley around 1873. As the home sites of Kent Woodlands were sold off and the hillside below Mt. Tam sprang to life with the construction of new houses, twisting roads were built to accommodate the curves of the mountain. The neighborhood is surrounded by park land and open space with fire roads good for bike riding and dog walking. It gets hot and sunny in the summer and wet and rainy in the winter, and is considered one of the wettest places in the county. Still celebrities, academics and famous people of all types call Kent Woodlands home. Anna and Lawrence Halprin, creative geniuses in their chosen field, have lived in Kent Woodlands and raised a family

here. Lawrence died in 2009, but Anna continues to make her home on the steep side of Mt. Tam. Anna is a gifted dancer and choreographer, still Kent ds teaching and dancn oodla W ing well into her 80s. At their home is an outdoor dance deck, designed by landscape architect Lawrence, on which some of the most famous dancers of all time have collaborated and moved enveloped by the sounds and smells of nature. Among the myriad of projects for which Lawrence is most famous are the Sea Ranch, Ghirardelli Square, Levi Plaza and the Letterman Digital Art Center in San Francisco. The culture and loveliness of Kent Woodlands, from the curvy roads and dusty trails to the distinctive people and close proximity of College of Marin, makes for a neighborhood worth visiting. In the shadow of Mount Tam, unexpected weather and unexpected lives co-exist. — BROOKE JACKSON

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Summer 2010 17

LOCH LOMOND, Marin’s port in a storm

oating has been in Marin’s lifeblood ever since the Miwok piloted their tule canoes across the region’s marshes, bays and inlets. Bolinas, Sausalito and Tiburon were built on waterfront commerce and the fringe benefits of aquatic panoramas and handy ferryboats. Yachting and pleasure sailing has had a local presence for over a century, and for decades San Rafael was as defined by its navigable creek as by its warm weather and quaint mission. So it was only a matter of time before the irresistible stretch of sheltered waterfront between the creek’s mouth and Point San Pedro would be transformed into a nifty little marina where yachtsmen, sailors, fisherfolk and the like could find safe harbor on the shores of San Rafael Bay. San Rafael’s Loch Lomond district is dominated by that strip of San Pedro Peninsula bayfront. Here a popular marina offers residents and visitors a place to stroll, relax, picnic, berth a yacht, charter a fishing boat or simply behold the beauties of the bay, the mountain, the Richmond Bridge and Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge. North of the marina and Point San Pedro Road are the neighborhood’s low-slung mid-century hillside homes; they nestle against the southern edge of China Camp State Park and its meadows, forests, footpaths and wildlife. With the Glenwood neighborhood to the east and the Country Club neighborhood to the west, it’s a tranquil place to enjoy the beauties of Marin without giving up the nightlife of Fourth Street a few miles away. Loch Lomond was just a sliver out of the original Mexican land grant known as Rancho San Pedro. In 1844 it was acquired by one Timothy Murphy, a large, genial Irishman who made his name as an Indian agent, San Rafael alcalde and all-around party animal. (He also raised thoroughbred horses, owned 50 greyhounds and Irish setters and once reputedly wrassled a bear in the hills above San Anselmo.) Despite a sharp eye for any lucrative opportunity, he pretty much left his San Pedro shoreline alone, and for the next 120 years the future site of Bobby’s Fo’c’s’le Cafe remained undeveloped. Then, as the post-WWII baby boom burgeoned, almost all of the Bay Area’s salt marshes east of 101 and west of the Nimitz were filled and covered with housing and shopping centers, and in the end, 95 percent of our wetlands had vanished. Julie Vade r

Construction on the Loch Lomond development began in the late ’50s as the marshes near the mouth of San Rafael Canal were filled h with hydraulic dredge Loc ond m and dirt from the Lo hillsides to the north. Bruno’s shopping center was up and running by 1962, the marina by 1964, and that same year the Loch Lomond Yacht Club opened its doors. In keeping with the new community’s (rather inapt) moniker, streets in the residential area uphill were named Inverness, Kinross, Lochinvar, Bonnie Banks and other heather-fragrant appellations. In the late ’90s the marina was thoroughly spruced up with a new 6-foot dredge and a vista-friendly boardwalk. Today’s Loch Lomond has a population of 700 or so scattered across half a square mile of winding streets, hills and bayfront. Most residents are on the well-to-do side (the neighborhood’s median income is almost twice San Rafael’s average, and one-third of the locals send their kids to private schools). The center of the action is Loch Lomond Marina, home of the yacht club, boat repair and storage facilities, marine supplies, a bait shop and sport-fishing charters as well as a market and deli, beauty salon and dry cleaners. (Tragically, Bobby’s, a beloved local hangout, burned down in 2007.) The marina has a fueling station and public launch ramp plus 10 docks with 517 berths for small boats, 52 of them live-aboards; a long jetty runs the length of the marina and serves as its breakwater. To the east are two acres of undeveloped seasonal wetlands ideal for bird-watching. A high-profile redevelopment project, the Village at Loch Lomond Marina, has been in the works for much of the past decade. The plan involves a new waterfront plaza, a top-shelf grocery store operated by Woodlands Market, a 600-foot-long marina green, a widened boardwalk, a children’s play area, improved strolling, fishing, bird-watching and picnicking opportunities, an expansion of the east side’s natural wetlands and 81 new residential units (17 of them affordable housing) made up of cottages, townhouses and flats above mixed-use buildings. The economic downturn and six years of factious hearings have stalled construction, but Woodlands, Bobby’s and Bruno’s notwithstanding, we’ll always have the lap of the waves and those gorgeous views. —MATTHEW STAFFORD LOCH LOMOND AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION San Rafael Fire Station 5, 955 Point San Pedro Road, San Rafael LIBRARY San Rafael Public Library, 1100 E. St., San Rafael PARKS China Camp State Park, McNear’s Beach, Peacock Park POST OFFICE San Rafael Post Office, 910 D. St., San Rafael

Marina boats with Mt. Tamalpa

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is in the background.

SCHOOLS Glenwood Elemtary School, 25 West Castlewood Drive, San Rafael. San Pedro School, 498 Pt. San Pedro Road, San Rafael; Davidson Middle School, 280 Woodland Ave., San Rafael; San Rafael High School, 185 Mission Ave., San Rafael

SPLENDOR IN THE GARDEN! -BT$BTBTt4BO3BGBFM A little oasis to enjoy year round. Colorful gardens amidst pool, spa and waterfall. Indoor/outdoor living made easy in this one level home in pristine condition. Charming 3BR/3BA home with country kitchen and built-in eating nook. Spacious living room for the Grand Piano. Formal dining for festive dinners. Separate office or possible 4th bedroom. Family room/library and a second family room off kitchen. Elegant master with marble bath. Close to Loch Lomond Marina. XXX-BT$BTBTDPN

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Summer 2010 19

LOS RANCHITOS, a peek into Marin’s ranchero past Julie Vade r

downtown Civic Center, Northgate and Within a stone’s throw of the side of 101. t wes the tiny enclave on the San Rafael, Los Ranchitos is

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LOS RANCHITOS AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION San Rafael Fire Department, 1039 C St. LIBRARY 3501 Civic Center Drive PARKS Lagoon Park, Marin County Fairgrounds POST OFFICE Terra Linda Post Office 603 Del Ganado Road PUBLIC SCHOOLS Venetia Valley, 177 North San Pedro Road; Terra Linda High School, 320 Nova Albion Way

Julie Vade r

he north-of-San Rafael neighborhood of Los Ranchitos—also known as Rafael Meadows—is just under one square mile of land in an unincorporated area of Marin. One of San Rafael’s more affluent suburbs, Los Ranchitos houses close to 1,000 residents behind and along the west side of Merrydale Road. The majority of houses in the area were built in the ’50s and ’60s—and it shows in the prevalence of sprawling California ranch-style abodes. One- and two-story single-family homes dominate, with a good number of apartments and condominiums located along Merrydale Road, down to North San Pedro Road and along Highway 101. Many lots—especially hillside properties west of Los Ranchitos Road and along Circle Road—are over an acre, with horse stables and tennis courts on-site. The general region of Los Ranchitos forms a sort of rudimentary triangle between San Rafael neighborhoods Santa Venetia to the east (with Highway 101 delineating the boundary), Terra Linda to the northwest and Sun Valley to the south. Proximity to these communities gives Los Ranchitos residents ideal access to hiking and mountain biking (China Camp State Park), transportation (via Golden Gate Transit and Highway 101), shopping and restaurants (Northgate Mall and downtown San Rafael), other cultural interests (Marin Center and Osher Marin Jewish Community Center) and Kaiser Foundation Hospital. West of Los Ranchitos Road, residences reflect the mid-century California ranch-style aesthetic that fuses Spanish colonial design with American West-period working ranches and the stark, contemporary simplicity of modernist architecture. The neighborhood is awash in trees and long, low-roofline homes with large windows, wide overhanging eaves and stucco exteriors with rustic brick and wood trim. Only when you venture east of the heavily foliaged Los Ranchitos Road—down to Merrydale Road—do you begin to notice the late-20th century neo-eclectic style of building, exemplified in the neighborhood’s latest development, known as Redwood Village. The new subdivision consists of 133 townhomes and single-family residences, as well as Ranchitos Park, with its colorful, sizable playground.

Two churches flank the intersection of Los Ranchitos and North San Pedro Road—Epic Faith Christian Church and Preschool, and Los os First Congregational hit Ranc Church—with Warren Conrad Christian Center across the street and Valley Baptist Church further down North San Pedro at Merrydale. Heading north on Merrydale Road, you’ll pass a Montessori school, a small outlet of fast-food restaurants, a pizzeria and a mini-market shopping center replete with a dry cleaners and a bike shop. There are even a couple restaurants and a patio furniture shop along abbreviated Redwood Avenue, parallel to Merrydale and adjacent to the highway. A tiny suburban triangle within the triangular neighborhood of Los Ranchitos is formed by Corrillo Drive and Las Flores Avenue, west of Merrydale. Here, in this densely populated plane of casual homes and cul-de-sacs, the true character of Los Ranchitos is displayed and families rule—as evidenced by the near-Mayberry appearance of children playing with toys in yards, friendly neighbors chatting over fences and contented couples out for an afternoon stroll.

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Summer 2010 21

MARSHALL, where life’s a beach indeed Mar

Julie Vade r

long they’d d on the land in 1852, before The Marshall brothers squatte acquired 8,000 acres.

22 Pacific Sun

MARSHALL AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Point Reyes Fire Station, Fourth and B streets, Point Reyes Station LIBRARY 15 Park Ave., Inverness PARKS Marconi State Historic Park; Tomales Bay State Park; Millerton Park POST OFFICE 19200 Highway 1, Marshall Julie Vade r

kirting the edge of Tomales Bay, Highway One curves and glides the eastern shore, eventually coming to Marshall. Enchanting cottages built over the water sit on stilts, with captivating views of the hills, the bay and the barking seals. Signs for barbecued oysters tempt tourists and locals alike to stop for some neighborhood nourishment while kayaks line up on the beach begging for a paddle. Marshall is a romantic town surrounded by rolling hills on one side and the ever-changing tapestry of Tomales Bay on the other. The fi rst oysters were farmed near Millerton Point in 1875. Seventeen freight cars of oyster seeds from the East Coast were planted in the tidelands and thrived. Today one can see the hanging racks of Pacific seed oysters in pockets and coves the whole winding way up the eastern side of Tomales Bay. Clams and mussels are also farmed in the bay and there are several local outlets in Marshall for buying live bivalves to take home or sit and enjoy them barbecued, along with a brew. But oysters weren’t the fi rst industry to come to Marshall. The Marshall brothers reached the area before any roads or trains, in 1852. They squatted on the land initially, but eventually acquired 8,000 acres. Twenty years later, when the railroad reached town, the brothers had built a hotel and warehouse and ran cattle on their land. The town grew with the access afforded by the railroad and soon there was a boat works, post office, general store and permanent residents. The 1906 earthquake wreaked havoc on the area, rearranging the train tracks, causing a furrow in the mud down the middle of Tomales Bay and throwing the hotel in Marshall upright into the water. Thankfully, none of the boarders were hurt. According to one account by a fisherman, all the water in the bay drained out, leaving his boat in the mud, then came rushing back in as a 100-foot wall. For all the appalling damage the quake caused to the area, the loss of life was minimal. Fame and fortune have smiled on the tiny hamlet since the days of Prohibition. By all accounts, rum running (and all kinds of other liquor), was a full-time job that netted lots of dough for savvy locals. The beaches, bays and woods of Pt. Reyes were ideal


all hiding places for cases of premium Canadian booze. The drops were made on the beaches by stevedores from vessels anchored miles offshore. Local bootleggers would have to get the stuff to Sacramento without being caught. Outsmarting the federal agents was a game that the local bootleggers generally won, making many a fortune. In recent times, fame has come in the shape of movie sets and musicians. The beginning scenes of the slasher movie I Know What You Did Last Summer were fi lmed at the northern end of Marshall, along the foggy bay. Writers, artists, potters and rock musicians have called the town home for many years. The Youngbloods used to practice in an old barn nearby and Steve Miller was a longtime resident. When the Marshall Tavern was still in existence, members of Quicksilver Messenger Service used to come in and see if their tunes were still on the jukebox. These days, the sleepy village gets busy on the weekends but retains the charm of earlier years. Dozens of seals take over by the boats at anchor and bark greetings to the humans onshore, laughing at how lucky they are to call Marshall home. —BROOKE JACKSON

The modern architecture mo vement reached Marshall in the

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Summer 2010 23

MUIR BEACH, the glamour behind the fog

olinas may get all the publicity, but Muir Beach is Marin’s great funky secluded oceanside community. It was here that Ken Kesey hosted his second Acid Test, Janis Joplin’s ashes were scattered along the sands, Azorean dairymen from the other side of the world settled and prospered, and burned-out Frisco beatniks found a perfect end-of-thecontinent milieu for renewal and contemplation. Migrating monarch butterflies and California red-legged frogs love the place. There’s no cable television, cell phones are more or less useless, the bikini’s optional at the north end of the beach and every Nov. 5 a bagpiper leads a procession to the ocean’s shore for a ritual cremation of Guy Fawkes. What’s not to love? This tiny unincorporated settlement is tucked into a cove with dramatic bluffs on three sides and the wide foggy Pacific lapping at its southern shore. It’s entirely within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with Mt. Tamalpais State Park poking at its upper flanks; a mile or so to the north is Muir Woods National Monument, the Bay Area’s only remaining grove of ancient redwoods. Back in the good old days the area was dominated by a 25-acre tidal lagoon that attracted bobcats, elk, jackrabbits, bald eagles, grizzly bears and the Huimen tribe, one of 600 Coast Miwok groups that flourished between the Golden Gate and Bodega Bay. Then the Spanish colonials arrived, followed by the Mexicans, who deeded the area and the rest of the massive Rancho Saucelito land grant to pioneer William Richardson. After statehood one immigrant, Constantino Bello, started the Golden Gate Dairy at Throckmorton’s T Ranch in 1898; a decade later his brother Antonio purchased the hilly, cove-side parcel and named it Bello Beach. Antonio built a beachside hotel and in 1923 subdivided the hillside into graded parcels for low-cost summer rental cabins. A rustic tavern-restaurant-snack bar was built along the sands and the place was renamed Muir Beach to connect it with the now-world-famous forest up the road. After the war the town’s natural beauty, cheap housing and seductive isolation attracted bohemians disenchanted with the trappings of civilization. The beatniks added a certain artists’ colony mystique to the local mix of dairymen, old-timers and the postwar suburbanites who occupied the new Seascape subdivision above the original settlement. Julie Vade r

The town really got its name on the map during the 1960s, soon after the old Tavern morphed from a restaurant into a dance hall. Ken Kesey picked the Tavern for his second Acid Test in December 1965, complete with h Beac Muir light show, music by the Warlocks (aka the Grateful Dead), LSD aplenty and luminaries like Lenny Bruce, Wavy Gravy and Owsley Stanley. (The evening is chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, published a few years later.) Big Brother & The Holding Company, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Outfit (led by Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil) and less iconic bands like Magenta Raindrop and Ugly Harpies also played the Tavern before California State Parks acquired the property and replaced it and its adjacent beach cottages with a parking lot. The beach itself is only about a thousand feet long, but there’s plenty of room for surfing, kayaking, bird-watching, horseback riding, picnicking and sunbathing in the protected cove. (The hippies started a nude-sunbathing tradition that endures at Little Beach, a strip of pebbly sand north of the boulders, but the locals demanded a crackdown last summer; be advised.) Just up Highway One is the Green Gulch Zen Center with its meditation zendo, teahouse, organic garden and regular Buddhist services every Sunday morning at 10. To the west is Slide Ranch, an environmental education center that’s been offering fun, hands-on green-food activities since 1970. Back at the cove, the Muir Beach Community Center features classes, workshops, movies, parties, seasonal events and fireside gettogethers as well as coffee and scones every Wednesday morning and beautiful ocean vistas from its decks and verandas. Up Pacific Way is the Pelican Inn (est. 1979), a cozy Tudor-style pub where you can sip a Guinness, sup on shepherd’s pie, beef Wellington, fish and chips or afternoon tea, bed down for the night in a canopy bed or enjoy the annual Guy Fawkes, Burns Night and Boxing Day revels. There are no streetlights and only one public pay phone, but the water’s potable now, the septic tanks are working fine and the bookmobile visits twice a month. Getting away from it all was never so magical. —MATTHEW STAFFORD

MUIR BEACH AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Throckmorton Ridge Station, 816 Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley; Muir Beach Volunteer Fire Department, at the Golden Gate Dairy Barn LIBRARY Mill Valley Public Library, 375 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley PARKS Muir Beach POST OFFICE Sausalito Post Office, 150 Harbor Dr.

in 1923. began as a hillside subdivision Muir Beach’s modern legacy

24 Pacific Sun

PUBLIC SCHOOLS Tam Valley School, 350 Bell Lane, Mill Valley; Mill Valley Middle School, 425 Sycamore Ave., Mill Valley; Tamalpais High School, 700 Miller Ave., Mill Valley

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Coastal Health Alliance HEROS OF WEST MARIN — NETWORKING FOR GOOD — Point Reyes Community Health Center, The Bolinas Community Health Center & The Stinson Beach Community Health Center

Twenty-seven years ago 2 Dr. Mike Witte, together with a group

of committed residents founded a clinic in Point Reyes Station. The mission was to give care to all in need regardless of their ability to pay. In the subsequent 27 years some changes have been made. Point Reyes Medical Clinic moved from a tiny house on Third Street to an airy, light filled building on Sixth Street. The Bolinas Family Practice, which had been operating with the same mission and philosophy, became part of our family–and as of September

2007, moved from a small storefront in downtown Bolinas, to a gorgeous new facility on the Mesa next to the new firehouse. We opened a third clinic in Stinson Beach, the Stinson Beach Medical Center. Though all sites kept their names, we formed an umbrella agency, Coastal Health Alliance (CHA) which oversees all three clinics. Coastal Health Alliance is a group of three community health centers committed to accessible health care for everyone. In keeping us united, we are now calling our three sites the Point

Reyes Community Health Center; Bolinas Community Health Center, and Stinson Beach Community Health Center. We are still the same locally controlled organization. California’s budget crisis has resulted in CHA losing nearly a quarter million dollars of state funding in this fiscal year, yet even as revenue is reduced, the demand for our vital services has increased. In today’s difficult economic climate, CHA will aggressively pursue grants to cover shortfalls caused by state budget cuts, and minimize the impact on our patients.

To Join us in healing and helping go to: Marineighborhoods

Summer 2010 25

INVERNESS, the geological wunderkind of Marin Brindl Markle

This old salt is a veritable Inve

rness landmark.

26 Pacific Sun

INVERNESS AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Point Reyes Fire Station, Fourth and B streets, Point Reyes Station LIBRARY Inverness Library, 15 Park Ave., Inverness PARKS Marconi State Historic Park; Tomales Bay State Park; Millerton Park, Point Reyes National Seashore POST OFFICE Inverness Post Office, 12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness SCHOOLS Inverness Elementary School, 1 Forres Way, Inverness; Tomales High School, 3850 Irvin Road, Tomales Brindl Markle

erched on the edge of Tomales Bay, the town of Inverness climbs up the flanks of Inverness Ridge, houses and cabins clinging to the steep hills. Roads snake up the vertical sides of the ridge, providing fi ltered views through the canopy of trees. The atmospheric waterfront gained infamy in the horror fl ick The Fog. The commercial part of town is along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and up Inverness Way, where many of the original homes from the late 1800s still stand. Established as a town in 1889, Inverness was part of the 35,000-acre Punta de los Reyes Rancho. The rancho was deeded to James Richard Berry in 1836 by the Mexican governor, but the casual way the land was handed out made for bickering and uncertainty about property lines. When California gained statehood in 1846, the Rancho changed hands and was cut into pieces. Eventually the section encompassing Inverness fell into the hands of Judge James Shafter. He subdivided the land in 1889 to pay for a long list of debts and the parcels were sold off one by one, mostly to residents of San Francisco and Oakland. The city dwellers came to the sunny shores of Tomales Bay for summer R&R by way of train to Pt. Reyes Station, then ferry across the bay. The 1906 earthquake practically destroyed most of Inverness. Many buildings in the little town collapsed, including the store and the post office; the main wharf was bent about 20 degrees. The hotel annex, under construction at the time, fell down and summer houses were knocked off their foundations. School was moved to an outside classroom to protect the children from aftershocks. The industrious residents got right to work rebuilding and within a year there was a new store and post offi ce, a 23room resort hotel with a vast dining room and, aft er a few years, the Inverness Yacht Club. Quake refugees from San Francisco found their way to Inverness, resettling, ironically, on top of the cause of the disaster, the San Andreas Fault. Another disaster threatened the town in 1995. The Mt. Vision fi re on Inverness Ridge destroyed homes and a large area

of Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The town Inve was saved by helicoprnes s ters dipping massive buckets in Tomales Bay and pouring them on the sides of the ridge. High winds blew clouds of smoke across the county, making for hazy skies for three days. Th is writer clearly remembers the unsettling feeling of choking on smoke in San Rafael, knowing that it was the by-product of dearly loved homes and land. Today Inverness is a lively mix of academics, artists, writers and families whose ancestors settled the town. Traditions passed down through the generations still take place: the sack foot race on July 4th, summer sailing regattas at the yacht club and picnics on Chicken Ranch Beach. For all the strife wrought by disasters over the years, Inverness has retained its natural beauty and remains the gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore. —BROOKE JACKSON

Inverness architecture often reflects the Eastern European influence on the Tomales Bay.

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Summer 2010 27

PACHECO VALLE, out of the past and into the present Julie Vade r

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28 Pacific Sun


PACHECO VALLE AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Station 4, 319 Enfrente Drive LIBRARY Novato Library, 1720 Novato Blvd.; Hamilton branch, Hangar 6, suite 140A PARKS Palmisano Community Park, Caliente Real at Burma Road, Hamilton POST OFFICE 1537 South Novato Blvd. PUBLIC SCHOOLS Loma Verde Elementary, 399 Alameda de la Loma; Hamilton Elementary, 1 Main Gate Road, Hamilton; San Jose Middle School, 1000 Sunset Parkway; Novato High, 625 Arthur St.

Julie Vade r

uring the time that California was under Mexican rule, early pioneers to the state petitioned the government for land grants. These settlers, known as Californios, discovered Marin County and by the 1830s were grabbing big chunks of the fertile ranch land for cattle and farming. Swashbuckler Ignacio Pacheco obtained one such land grant encompassing over 6,600 acres. The rancho, named San Jose after the city of Pacheco’s birth, ranged from present-day Hamilton Field, across Highway 101 and deep into the hills to the west. It was prime grazing land for the cattle and horses Pacheco raised. Ignacio Pacheco also raised a pack of kids, nine total, with three different wives. It was a hard life for women-folk back then. The first two wives died relatively young in childbirth or from illness, but not before producing three children between them. His third wife, Maria Loreto, gave birth to six more. They were housed in an elegant adobe hacienda, which was added onto room by room to accommodate the growing brood. After Pacheco’s death, the grant was divided among the family’s survivors: Widow Maria received one-third and the remaining acreage was split equally among the eight living children. The original adobe burned to the ground in May of 1923; however, descendants of the Pacheco family still live in a large house along 101 south that was built by Pacheco’s son Gumesindo in the early 1880s. Today, Pacheco Valle is a verdant stretch of rolling hills carpeted with oaks and grassy fields. Bordered by Ignacio Road to the north and Highway 101 to the east, open space and hiking paths abound within the confines of this peaceful land. Loma Verde, Ignacio Valley and Pacheco Valle preserves, as well as Marinwood and Lucas Valley Open Space, comprise acres of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Lucky residents of this sunny area have lots of options for getting out in the fresh air. Tucked back in the folds of a canyon sits the sprawling Indian Valley campus of College of Marin, accessed through the Ignacio neighborhood to the north, also named for the Pacheco family patriarch. Indian Valley College merged with COM in 1985 and now the campus provides an academic curriculum to a portion of the 9,000 students who enroll annually at COM. The 333-acre site

haas a 5.8-acre organic has garden gaarden d that h was jjust awarded (2009) a aw “Project of the Year” “P co Pache e for its Pathways to fo Vall Achievement Program, Ac and a state-of-the-art an swimming facility sw used by many groups us in the county for training and competitra tion purposes. tio Besides academic pursuits, outdoor activities and history, Pacheco Valle is an easy ac place to call home. Great weather, close proximity pla to transportation, retail and restaurant outlets nearby and easy access to the freeway combine to make a wonderfully hosan pitable neighborhood. In recent years, the area has seen an increase pit in housing construction and an influx of new residents. Ignacio Pacheco would probably be surprised at what has happened to his original land grant, although not altogether unhappy. The foundations he laid for valuing the land and exploring its potential while protecting it have played out nicely in his valley.

Many of the Pacheco Valle abodes were designed to blen d in with the area’s natural surroundings .

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Summer 2010 29

TRESTLE GLEN, western Tiburonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pathway to paradise... Julie Vade r

Blackie, as he always was.

30 PaciďŹ c Sun

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; JASON WALSH

TRESTLE GLEN AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Tiburon Fire Protection District, 1679 Tiburon Blvd., Tiburon LIBRARY Tiburon Library, 1501 Tiburon Blvd. PARKS Paradise Beach; Ring Mountain; Blackieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Pasture; Old St. Hilaryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Historic Preserve POST OFFICE Tiburon Post OfďŹ ce, 6 Beach Road, Tiburon Julie Vade r

nly a cool-quirky town like Tiburon would have a horse as its all-time most famous resident. Blackie the Wonder Horse led a respectableenough life before his glory daysâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;he spent much of the Prohibition era as a California rodeo stallion, before a stint in the Army brought him to the San Francisco Bayâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in the breezy corrals at the Presidio. But Blackieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s legend was made on Oct. 1, 1938, when the hoofer out-swam a pair of cocky Olympic Club athletes in a race from Marin to Crissy Field, winning trainer Shorty Roberts a cool $1,000 and the 12-year-old equine a date with an early retirement. Blackie spent the next 28 years in peaceful serenity on the pastureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s of Tiburonâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;at the bayside nook where Tiburon Boulevard meets Trestle Glen Road. Hardly moving an inch from his choice location with a pristine view toward the cityscape, the dobbin became the unofficial town mascot. Today a life-size sculpture of Blackie keeps his legend alive at Blackieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Pasture Park, one of several points of interest that makes the western climes of Tiburon one of Marinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best-kept secrets. While downtown Tiburon has its shops on Main Street, the Angel Island ferry and some truly delirious restaurant options, out toward Trestle Glen is where the real action is. Trestle Glen Boulevard is truly the transportation artery through town, diametrically cutting across the peninsula, linking the well-traveled Tiburon Boulevard with the equally intriguing opulence of Paradise Drive. (While downtown revels in its reputation for Marin mega wealth, Paradise is where the real money isâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a place with a view on the market right now for $9,992,000.) A few minutes drive up Paradise, visitors will find one of Marinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s finest picnic destinationsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Paradise Beach Park, an Open Space District-operated destination for picnickers, bikers, hikers and boatersâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;with a sandy beach, a fishing pier, horseshoe court and one heckuva view across the north end of the San Francisco Bay.

Equally intriguing is nearby Ring Mountain which, thanks to its geological cocktail of lava, limestone, shale and blue schist, is toxic to most plant lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;that is, except s tle Tre len for the Tiburon G Mariposa Lily, a pretty-in-pink little blossom that grows on Ring Mountainâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and nowhere else in the world. The lower climes of the mountain arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t as foreboding to our photosynthesizing friends and the many hiking trails feature wind-wavering grasslands and abundant fields of wildflowers. The deer, coyotes and red-tailed hawks find it inviting, as well. If you find yourself on the Phyllis Ellman Loop, keep an eye out for the short trail that leads down to the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Indian kitchen,â&#x20AC;? a centuryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s old stone slab that Coast Miwoks used to crack open fresh shellfish from the nearby bay waters and grind acorns into powder. Seems that even the areaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s original inhabitants recognized the Trestle Glen neighborhood as a great place to picnic and hang out.

The Tiburon ďŹ&#x201A;ora in springtim


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Summer 2010 31

SEMINARY, San Anselmo’s heaven on earth Julie Vade r

Seminary has bee The San Francisco Theological landmark since 1892.

n a San Anselmo

32 Pacific Sun

SEMINARY AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Ross Valley Fire Department, 777 San Anselmo Ave. LIBRARY San Anselmo Library, 110 Tunstead Ave. PARKS Lansdale Station Playground; Millennium Park POST OFFICE San Anselmo Post Office, 121 San Anselmo Ave. PUBLIC SCHOOLS Wade Thomas School, 150 Ross Ave.; Sir Francis Drake High School, 1327 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Julie Vade r

alking through the leafy neighborhood known as the Seminary, it’s impossible not to notice the spires and turrets of the areas namesake. The San Francisco Theological Seminary anchors this graceful array of curved streets and historical homes near San Anselmo Avenue, providing character and charm. The Presbyterian Seminary moved to San Anselmo in 1892 from San Francisco. Built on a 14-acre hilltop site that was donated by philanthropist A. W. Foster, the buildings were designed in the Romanesque style and built of San Rafael bluestone. The campus has grand lawns ringed by shade trees, moss covered stone walls and attractive Victorian houses for its faculty. Starting with just 20 students when it opened, several thousand roving theologians now hold degrees from here. There wasn’t much to San Anselmo before the seminary came to town. It was mostly popular as a summer destination for camping along the creek with very few permanent residents. However, with the establishment of the seminary, the area started to grow. The earthquake in 1906 created an inf lux of new residents. Stately homes began to sprout up around the seminary. One such place is the Robson-Harrington house, an impressive, wood-framed mansion on Crescent Drive. Built by Edwin and Marian Wood in 1906, it is rife with gorgeous wood details such as inlaid f loors, burl redwood paneling and birdseye maple trim. The Wood’s heirs sold the property for $18,500.00 in 1923 to Kernan and Geraldine Robson. They landscaped the two-and-a-half acre lot with gorgeous gardens, an orchard and vineyard, curving brick walls and fountains. Upon their deaths the property was bequeathed to the town of San Anselmo as a park. The mansion can be rented for special events and the lovely gardens surrounding it are a fine place for a picnic.

When the Golden Gate Bridge was finished in 1937, the town saw a further increase in population. The wide, tree-lined ar y streets around the Semin seminary spread to the edges of Ross. Now considered one of the most desirable neighborhoods in San Anselmo, it has a high walkability rating, the award-winning Wade Thomas Elementary School and homes somewhat larger than other neighborhoods in town. Besides all these pluses, the vistas in and around the seminary are to die for. Mt. Tam’s peaks rise up behind the medieval spires and Bald Hill casts its imposing shadows. The redwood ridges above Ross add spaciousness while the meandering lanes of the campus beckon strollers. The surrounding open space lends a country air in the midst of the suburbs and the panoramas bring to mind a European hilltop village. Surely one of the loveliest neighborhoods in the county, the Seminary is a pleasant place to settle. —BROOKE JACKSON

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Summer 2010 33

TOMALES, out of the past

here are times when Tomales seems like a living exhibit of Marin’s past. Fog rolls in continually from the ocean, reaching every crevice of the appealing—and at times peeling—Victorian architecture. On weekdays, from late morning until Tomales High gets out, it is likely the streets will be devoid of human traffic. Yet, Tomales residents are a colorful bunch, and it is clear from town meetings and community celebrations that Tomales is much more than a pretty postcard. Many travelers through West Marin head up Highway 1 between Tomales and Point Reyes Station, Tomales’ more cosmopolitan cousin. The 17 miles of coastline that separates the two locations divides the rural from the downright rustic. Tomales features everything you’d expect from a town that’s stayed much the same since the 19th century: a post office, a general store, churches and a school. In addition to the allure of nature, beaches and countryside, Tomales offers a truly fascinating history. What now appears to be a sleepy and quiet place to live was once a bustling Victorian-era port town, second in the area only to San Rafael. Th e unique shallow bay created by the San Andreas Fault allowed for ocean-faring ships to travel inland and dock in Tomales. Names on old maps suggest the very fi rst sailors to reach the area in 1603 actually mistook the bay for the Rio Grande. Of course, there were people in the area before white settlers arrived. Coastal Miwok inhabited the area, specifically the Tomallos tribe. They were fine basket weavers and hide tanners, and lived in tepees along the coast. Luckily for the Tomallos, abalone and clam shell pieces served as currency throughout California’s Native American tribes. The Tomallos were also blessed with the bounty of the area: Otters, rabbits, birds and shellfish were all easily obtainable—but grasshoppers were actually the local delicacy. The insects



Julie Vade r

were boiled much like shrimp, or ground into a paste to be eaten. The Tomallos were largely undisturbed until the end of the 18th century. In 1775, the Mexican Sonora, under Lt. Juan Francisco de Bodega y Cuadra, set anchor in Tomales Bay. From that point on, the area would attract settlers from all over the world looking for success in the West. Cheap land, due to the Mexican land grants, made the California coast an ideal location to settle. Nearby Mission San Rafael had already drawn pioneers into the area, but the Russians had a better incentive: free land. People flocked to Tomales to trade, and the Russians brought Aleut natives from Alaska to help hunt otters and fur seals. Unfortunately, the hunters’ success forced these species to the brink of extinction in the area, and numbers still remain fairly low today. Toward the end of the 19th century, the Russian population had transitioned to a Swiss, Italian and Irish meld. Over time the Tomallos people had also begun to assimilate into the white population. A railroad connected Tomales to San Rafael, and the area had a burgeoning dairy business, thanks to the Swiss. It was Tomales milk, cheese and butter that fed San Francisco for most of this era. However, by 1870, Tomales began its gradual decline. Silt had built up in Tomales Bay, and the refusal of the government to dredge the area kept ships out at sea. The advent of more modern-day roads also began to shift traffic out of town. It was in this manner that a dynamic 2,000-resident shipping port became the 250-person town of today—one that still fascinates with its nostalgic charms. The touristattracting William Tell House claims to be the oldest saloon in Marin, having been established in 1877, around the time the North Pacific Coast Railroad first came through; and even Hollywood came calling a few years ago when Barry Levinson filmed a key scene in his 2001 film Bandits along the main road through town. Though the glamour of Tomales may have ebbed with the tides, the idyllic landscape and quaint vibe has kept Tomales on the map. —SARAH STRAND TOMALES AT A GLANCE FIRE STATION Tomales Fire Station, 599 Dillon Beach Road, Tomales LIBRARY 15 Park Ave., Inverness PARKS Tomales Park; Dillon Beach; Tomales Bay State Park

n of Mary dates back The Church of the Assumptio in the 1860s.

34 Pacific Sun

to Tomales’s heyday

POST OFFICE Tomales Post Office, 27005 Highway 1, Tomales PUBLIC SCHOOLS Tomales Elementary School, 40 John St.; Tomales High School, 3850 Irvin Road

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