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Welcome to the Mill Valley Historical Society

The Old Mill, built by John Thomas Reed around 1836. MVN1328 – Courtesy of the Lucretia Little History Room, Mill Valley Public Library

This website serves to keep our members and visitors informed about the many activities as well as the extensive historical archives pertaining to and related to the history of Mill Valley, California.  If you are not already a member of the Mill Valley Historical Society, whether you live in the area or not we warmly encourage you to go to the BECOME A MEMBER page and see what a yearly bargain it is to join.
We invite all those with an affection for Mill Valley to join and learn about the charming history of this little historic town at the base of Mount Tamalpais. Check the CALENDAR for past and upcoming events and programs. See the news posts below for the latest historical news about Mill Valley and Southern Marin. You can search the posts by the keywords that are listed on the sidebar. And please consider making a DONATION in support of our mission. We hope you enjoy your stay at www.mvhistory.org.

March First Wednesday Speaker? Paul Liberatore!

Paul LiberatorePaul Liberatore will discuss Marin County’s fascinating rock heritage, including Mill Valley’s rich rock legacy at the Mill Valley Historical Society’ March First Wednesday Speaker Program. [details here] Longtime Mill Valley musician Jimmy Dillon will be on hand to add a musician’s point of view. Jimmy is the lead guitarist in Paul’s band, the Liberators, a group that also includes Mill Valley keyboard ace Austin de Lone.
Paul has covered the Marin music scene since 1973 and is considered the foremost

Paul Liberatore - Photo by Robert Sterling - Marin IJ

Paul Liberatore – Photo by Robert Sterling – Marin IJ

historian on Marin County rock and pop music.
After a six-year stint at the IJ in the 1970s, Paul worked as a reporter and assistant city editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, returning to the IJ in 1989. He currently writes general news features and a Friday music column under the signature Lib at Large.
Paul’s nonfiction book, “The Road to Hell,” an investigation of the Marin County Courthouse Shootout and the infamous case of Black Panther George Jackson and radical lawyer Stephen Bingham, was published by Atlantic Monthly Press and was a

Musician Joan Baez poses with Marin IJ reporter Paul Liberatore during a ceremony to honor Liberatore as the 2014 Marin Cultural Icon award winner. The reception took place at the Marin Civic Center on Sunday, April 13, 2014. (Courtesy of County of Marin)

Musician Joan Baez poses with Marin IJ reporter Paul Liberatore during a ceremony to honor Liberatore as the 2014 Marin Cultural Icon award winner. The reception took place at the Marin Civic Center on Sunday, April 13, 2014. (Courtesy of County of Marin)

New York Times Book of the Times. It has recently been optioned for a movie.The Road to Hell
Raised in Southern California, Paul graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in political science. He has won numerous journalism awards, was honored with a Milley Award in 2004 for his contributions to the arts and culture of Mill Valley and became the eighth recipient of the County of Marin’s Cultural Treasure Award in 2014.

Paul Liberatore, center, is joined by musicians (from left) Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez and Ramlin' Jack Elliott, as well as Wavy Gravy, right, during a ceremony to honor Liberatore as 2014 Marin Cultural Icon on Sunday, April 13, 2014. (Courtesy of County of Marin)

Paul Liberatore, center, is joined by musicians (from left) Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez and Ramlin’ Jack Elliott, as well as Wavy Gravy, right, during a ceremony to honor Liberatore as 2014 Marin Cultural Icon on Sunday, April 13, 2014. (Courtesy of County of Marin)

VIGNETTE > Camp Tamalpais

Vignette Banner Clip - Copy
For over a year and a half Historian Chuck Oldenburg has been writing the semi-monthly vignettes about Mill Valley history for the members of the Mill Valley Historical Society.

A VIGNETTE presents historical facts with clarity and accuracy. Descriptions are brief and usually accompanied by a photo. The learning experience should take only about one or two minutes. The February 5th Vignette is titled Camp Tamalpais.

“In 1904, a few of the first folks to buy lots in Homestead Valley occasionally camped out. In 1906, many earthquake refugees became tent campers until they could build a house. In 1908, a developer had a different idea…”
READ THE WHOLE POST HERE

OLD MILL MARKET HIKERS’ TRAIL MAP

Dear Members and Friends of the Mill Valley Historical Society:
We hope that you had an opportunity to read the article in the January 1st Marin Independent Journal, “Historic Mill Valley trails map mural proposed for Old Mill Park“.

Some may already know the story of the salvaging of the map from the side of Bill’s Fix-It Shop (aka Thran’s Store, aka Old Mill Market, aka Clark’s Grocery, aka aka aka!), and its subsequent storage courtesy of one of our Members. Some may also remember that over three years ago, former MVHS President Tim Amyx began working to bring this map back to the public eye.

Mill Valley's Old Mill Market Hikers’ Trail Map > click to enlarge

Mill Valley’s Old Mill Market Hikers’ Trail Map > click to enlarge


The project has gone through many iterations, and at long last, the proposal is up for final approval by the City of Mill Valley’s Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday, February 4, 2015. 

(Due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict this will occur at the same time as our February First Wednesday event, featuring the wonderful Laurie Cohen, Conductor and Director of the Mill Valley Philharmonic.)
We hope you will join us in taking a few moments to write a letter of support. (Several sample letters are included here for those who would like suggestions about the content.)

Letters can be emailed by February 1st to:

City of Mill Valley Parks and Recreation Commission
recreate@cityofmillvalley.org

City of Mill Valley Parks Superintendent Brandon Stewart
bstewart@cityofmillvalley.org

City of Mill Valley Operations Superintendent Denise Andrews
dandrews@cityofmillvalley.org

Thank you in advance for your support of what we believe will be a positive and enduring contribution to our community!

Letter #1
As a resident of Mill Valley, I am writing to express my support for the Old Mill Market Hikers’ Trail Map installation project in Old Mill Park
This project helps to preserve the character of Mill Valley, and records something that would be difficult to replicate later. It also is appropriate to display the outdoor recreation aspect of the sign in Old Mill Park, the foot of Mount Tam in the spot that housed the Gravity Car for so long.
It is my understanding that the Historical Society has spent a huge amount of time creating this exhibit. The map itself is attractive, and well-complimented by the accompanying interpretive text. It will serve as both living history and also as a form of “outdoor art” which will enrich our community and remind us of the connections that we have to both Mill Valley and to one another.
We have very few opportunities for living history to be so accessibly displayed, and I hope that the City will do everything possible to bring this project to fruition.

Letter #2
I would like to express my support for the installation of this historical hikers’ trail map in Old Mill Park. As a child growing up in Mill Valley in the 1950s, I can recall seeing this map when I went to the Church of Our Saviour up the street or ran into the market after playing in Old Mill Park, but at that time, I couldn’t appreciate its significance.
Since the late 19th century, Mill Valley has always attracted hikers, campers, hunters and fishers to its beautiful natural surroundings and awe-inspiring mountain. When the NW Pacific railway spur into what is now downtown was built, crowds came from San Francisco to appreciate what was then termed “Outdoor Art”, that is, the desire for people to have close contact with nature as a necessity for their mental and physical well-being, and began hiking straight off the train, down Throckmorton and up the mountain. Later, when the Golden Gate Bridge was built to make automobile travel from San Francisco easier, even larger crowds came in droves at weekends and summers to enjoy the town and the mountain. Today the mountain is still a haven for hikers, picnickers, mountain bikers, and play-goers, integral to the identity of Mill Valley.
It is incredibly fortunate that the Mill Valley Historical Society (MVHS) members salvaged the map from the wall of the market so many years ago, having had the prescience to see how it could be so important to future generations of Mill Valley residents and visitors, as a reminder of the past and inspiration for the future. Old Mill Park is the ideal location for the map because the Dipsea Steps and so many trails begin near it, and the interpretive text gives meaning for those who are unfamiliar with the mountain and its trails.
Please support this project to enable children of the 2050s (and adults!) to appreciate the rich history of Mt. Tam’s trails.

Letter #3
I am writing to express my support for the installation of the historic Old Mill Market Hikers’ Trail Map in Old Mill Park
The map represents an essential aspect of the character of Mill Valley, and reflects the high value that was and still is placed on outdoor recreation. The location in Old Mill Park is very appropriate, both in its scale and as an historic replacement for the Gravity Car, which was moved to the Depot Plaza.
The map itself is attractive, and well-complimented by the accompanying interpretive text. It will serve as both living history and also as a form of “outdoor art” which will enrich our community and remind us of the connections that we have to both Mill Valley and to one another.
We have very few opportunities for living history to be so accessibly displayed, and I hope that the City will do everything possible to bring this project to fruition.

MVHS Vignette – Redwood Highway

Vignette Post Banner 2015
Until 1931, the route south on the Redwood Highway (now 101) from north Marin through Mill Valley to San Francisco was as follows: at the Alto Wye, right onto Blithedale; left on Camino Alto; through the Tam High campus to Almonte Blvd; Highway 1 from Dolan’s Corner to Manzanita and on to the Sausalito ferry. Pedestrian ferries went to the Ferry Building. READ MORE…

Read other short but interesting vignettes of Mill Valley history on our Vignettes page.