MVHS Dedication of Reed Adobe Plaque

Mill Valley Historical Society Board of Directors and Members, descendants of John Thomas Reed, and City of Mill Valley dignitaries gathered for the dedication of this interpretive plaque which marks the site of the adobe home of John Reed and his family. [click to enlarge ]

Mill Valley Historical Society Board of Directors and Members, descendants of John Thomas Reed, and City of Mill Valley dignitaries gathered for the dedication of this interpretive plaque which marks the site of the adobe home of John Reed and his family. [click to enlarge ]

03 28 2015 Reed Plaque DedicationThanks to all who attended and spoke at the lovely event on Saturday March 28th for the installation of the plaque marking the spot of John Thomas Reed’s 1843 adobe home. Great weather, great speakers, the participation of Reed family members and Miwok descendants, all contributed a moving tribute to the intrepid spirit of those who preceded us. Deep appreciation is due to Betty Goerke whose relentless efforts to mark this aspect of local history have come to fruition! [click first photo below]


Interpretive Plaque Marks Site of John Reed’s Adobe

John Reed Plaque 1Today the City of Mill Valley installed the interpretive plaque which identifies the approximate location of the adobe home of Mill Valley pioneer John Reed.

In approximately 1836 John Reed, the first recipient of a Mexican land-grant north of San Francisco, Corte Madera del Presidio, built a one-story, 18’x30’ adobe home near the current intersection of La Goma Avenue and Locke Lane in Mill Valley. Although the exact location is unknown, it is believed to have been at the top of the knoll.

In 1843, John Reed began building a more ambitious, two-story adobe hacienda which extended 45’ south from the approximate location of the first structure. This second home, a replica of which is shown on the plaque, was patterned after the Sanchez adobe in Pacifica, where John Reed and his bride Hilaria Sanchez had honeymooned.

The wood for the beams and the veranda was cut at Reed’s Mill in Cascade Canyon. A replica of the original mill is on the creek at Old Mill Park today.

Each of the two stories had three rooms, and walls that averaged three feet in thickness for winter warmth and summer cooling.

The entire 24’x45’ house was encircled by a five-foot wide double veranda, and there was no interior staircase.

Although John Reed died before construction was complete, his wife lived in the house for many years and was followed by his daughter Maria del Refugio Ynes Reed, “Inez”, and her husband Thomas Deffebach until their deaths in 1883 and 1884.

The wooden portion of the adobe home was burned by fire in approximately 1884, and the last photographic evidence we have of the remains was taken sometime between 1912 and 1916.

This plaque was designed and the production overseen by Mill Valley Historical Society board member Betty Goerke, who was also instrumental to the creation and installation of the Chief Marin plaque on Locust Avenue. It is a priority of MVHS to continue to support the creation and installation of interpretive signage in our community, to educate and foster appreciation for our wonderful historic resources. We are grateful to the City of Mill Valley for its continued support of this important work.  [click first photo for slideshow]

37th Annual Members Meeting & Potluck Dinner

MVHS 2014 Dinner PosterPlease join us on Thursday, October 30th for the Mill Valley Historical Society’s 37th Annual Member Meeting and Potluck Dinner. This yearly event provides a wonderful opportunity to see old friends and to meet those who share our own interest in the rich history of Mill Valley. The Annual Meeting includes the election of six new directors and officers for the coming year.
RSVP ASAP for this evening’s special guest speaker and slide show will likely make this an event that will fill quickly. As always, the Annual Members’ Meeting and Dinner is held for our current paid membership, and we warmly welcome those who wish to join at the door.
This year’s guest speaker will be local photographer and
garyyost_mugshot-1filmmaker, Gary Yost. A long time hiker, Gary has been interested in
the history of Mt. Tam and the surrounding areas of Mill Valley. He will be sharing a slide show and talking about his most recent movie, “The Invisible Peak”. “The Invisible Peak” focuses on the Cold War missile targeting radar station on Mt. Tamalpais which was abandoned by the military 30 years ago. Considered sacred by the Coast Miwok Indians for thousands of years, the West Yost Inv Peak for BlogPeak of Mt. Tam was bulldozed in 1950 in order to build an Air Force station. “The Invisible Peak” uses
breathtaking time-lapse cinematography, historical footage, interviews and moving narration by Peter Coyote to tell the story of the “missing” West Peak and the engaged citizens who have fought for over 30 years to return the mountain to its natural state.

Gary’s slide show will show a behind the scenes view of the making of his movie and be followed by a brief Q&A.


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

Guideboat Company Ribbon Cutting in Mill Valley

2013 Guideboat Co ribbon cut 1 Stepten Gordon Andrew Berman Daniel Escalzo

L-R: Stephen Gordon – owner of Guideboats, Andrew Berman – MV Mayor and Daniel Escalzo – Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce

The Mill Valley Lumberyard served Mill Valley for well over 100 years as a Lumber and Hardware store. (They first opened in 1892) It was the gateway to Mill Valley, as generations of visitors arrived by train.  Eventually, Miller Avenue laid pavement over the tracks, (early 1940’s) and it then served as the gateway to downtown for auto traffic.

2013 Guideboat Co ribbon cut 2 Mayor Berman Matt Jan Mathews Daniel Escalzo

L-R: Andrew Berman Mayor, Matt Mathews – Co owner of Lumberyard (property), Jan Mathewes – Co Owner of Lumberyard and Daniel Escalzo – MV Chamber

The Lumberyard went out of business in 2011 and was sold to Mill Valley residents, Matt and Jan Mathews.  Their vision to keep this historic relic alive is beginning to take shape.  The first step was to hold off bulldozers who could have come in, mow it down, and build something afresh.  The next step is now taking place, attracting tenants who will bring new and innovative ideas to the community.

The grand opening of the first tenant took place on September 17th.  Stephen Gordon is the proprietor of Guideboats Co, a company that sells boating attire, equipment, and canoe-type boats.  Their showroom and retail store are now in what used to be sawmill rooms and the hardware store.

Their long term plan is to bring an eclectic mix of businesses that can continue to energize this location and add a charm to the entrance of downtown Mill Valley.  It’s possible that part of the old lumberyard may one day house restaurants or smaller type cafeterias.