Why is Tamalpais Park a Historic Neighborhood? Two Reasons:
First, Tamalpais Park was the birthplace of Chief Marin, who was born in a small village located on a huge shell mound near where our two creeks run together at Locust and Sycamore. There is now a metal plaque by the sidewalk on Locust Avenue near Walnut at the site believed to be the birthplace of Huicmuse, remembered as Chief Marin (our County’s namesake). Chief Marin was born around 1780; the plaque was dedicated in 2009.
Second, Tamalpais Park was Mill Valley’s first subdivision, developed in 1904, the same year that the name of our town officially became Mill Valley (after being called “Eastland” for twelve years). After the 1906 earthquake, which destroyed much of San Francisco, Tamalpais Park's properties were promoted and began to sell quickly. According to advertising literature at the time, selling points included proximity to two train stations, large level lots, shade trees, and plenty of sunshine. The beauty of our neighborhood was not an accident. A descendant of one of the first European settlers in Marin (John Reed) and owner of the Tamalpais Park tract, Jessie Oliver Sollom, had conditioned development on creating curvy, narrow, tree lined streets, and naming the streets after the these trees (Catalpa, Elm, Fern, Locust, Walnut and Sycamore).
Learn More ….
Every year, the Mill Valley Historical Society offers Annual Walks Through History, and many of those Walks have focused on our special neighborhood. These are accompanied with Annual Reviews and History Walk Guidebooks. To learn more, go to www.mvhistory.org, scroll down to “Reviews” on the left side, and then use the search tools or scroll to Walk Guidebooks and you will see those about our neighborhood. You will find a wealth of information and evocative photos of times gone by. If you have information on your home or residents previously residing there, or want to find out if the Mill Valley Historical Society already has this information, contact them at their website, www.mvhistory.org, or visit them at the Mill Valley Public Library. The Mill Valley Historical Society also maintains files of houses and earlier residents in our neighborhood.
Coast Miwok in Marin
The first people known to inhabit Marin County, the Coast Miwok, arrived about 5,000 years ago. Their territory included all of Marin County, north to Bodega Bay and southern Sonoma County. The Coastal Miwok population may have been as high as 3000 or more. By 1940, Marin’s Miwok population had been reduced by 90 percent. Most died from exposure to European diseases upon entering the Missions beginning in 1776. Very few Coast Miwok descendants are alive today.
The village site situated in our neighborhood was first identified in 1907. Excavation revealed tools, burial remains, and food debris in the areas of Locust, Sycamore, LaGoma, and Locke. At that time, the mound was 20 feet high, 450 feet long and 200 feet wide. The shells were later distributed for gardens and paths, and even tennis courts. The Miwok population has been mentioned in several Mill Valley Historical Society Annual Walks. The 2008 Mill Valley Historical Society Review contains a particularly good article on the Miwoks and Chief Marin.
Tamalpais Park: The First Subdivision
By 1834 the Mission era had ended and California was under the control of the Mexican
government. They took Miwok ancestral lands, divided them and gave them away. These huge tracts of land were called ranchos by the Mexican settlers, or Californios. A young Irish immigrant, John Reed, had married Hilaria Sanchez, the daughter of the commandant of the Presidio in San Francisco. Part of his vast land grant (including much of Mill Valley, Southern Corte Madera, the Tiburon Peninsula, and Strawberry) was the area now known as Tamalpais Park. The location of Reed’s own adobe is marked by a plaque located just outside our neighborhood at Locke Lane and LaGoma. Hilaria and John had several children, one of whom was Hilarita. Matilda was another of Hilaria and John’s descendants. The adobe era was most recently covered in the Mill Valley Historical Society’s 2014 Review; a photo of Hilaria Sánchez Reed can be seen on the cover of the 1998 Review.
One of Hilaria and John’s granddaughters, Jessie Oliver Sollom, inherited the area now known as Tamalpais Park. When approached by developers, she agreed to sell on condition that the streets be lined with trees, and named after the trees located on those streets. She also wanted the streets to be narrow and curved, so as to make for an agreeable ride by horse and buggy, much to the consternation of modern automobile traffic. Our streets are still most agreeable to pedestrians, which may be why the Historical Society has covered our neighborhood so often. There are many stories to be told about the various residences and the people who lived in them. Park School, previously called Tamalpais Park School and meant to serve the local community, was opened for students in April 1909. The school has also been the subject of many Historical Society Walks. Walks covering the school and neighborhood are prominently featured in the Spring 1983 and 1989 Historical Society Reviews. The craftsman, bungalow and shingle style houses prominent in our neighborhood are covered in the 1998 Review.
Tamalpais Park Neighborhood Association
In the late 1970s, there was discussion of closing Park School. Residents of Tamalpais Park fought hard to keep the school open. Residents also began to see the need to organize a neighborhood association to advocate for neighborhood interests and provide a means of social interaction among neighbors. The Tamalpais Park Neighborhood Association was established in 1980 based on the original subdivision map; complete with Articles of Association and Bylaws. It is one of the oldest, continuing Neighborhood Associations in Mill Valley. As its first undertaking, the Association formed a Tree Assessment District in cooperation with the City of Mill Valley. Since then, neighbors have come together at various times to, among other things, defend against traffic increases, learn about and organize for disaster preparedness, and establish a neighborhood watch program. TPNA has worked with the City in efforts as diverse as requesting more police presence on Halloween to asking for enforcement of gas leaf blower restrictions. We also have two annual events to which all 350+ of our households are invited: an Annual Meeting and a Neighborhood Picnic. In 1990, we increased the scope of our neighborhood to include residents up to and including both sides of Hilarita, at a time when then-existing neighborhood associations covered all of the Sycamore Triangle except this area. We are all proud to call Tamalpais Park our home.