Bill Brown

A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg

December, 2002

Brown’s Hall on Miller Avenue was named for Bill Brown who had loaned the Homestead Progressive Club $2000 for the hall’s construction in 1934. The loan came with the proviso that Mr. Brown would receive 7 percent interest as long as he lived. He died in 1946 at age 83. No known relatives survived him.

Brown’s Hall was Homestead’s center of community activities for almost four decades until 1972 when the present community center was purchased next to Homestead School. Bill Brown had made a significant contribution to the community. Who was he? What else was he famous for?

John W. “Bill” Brown was born in Chicago on May 2, 1863. When he was ten years old, he went to Montana with his parents in a covered wagon. As a young man he lived in Salt Lake City. In 1893 he attended the World’s Fair in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, he brought his mother and his sister to Marin.

In the early 1890’s, Mill Valley had become a summer vacation resort for San Franciscans. The first train had arrived there on October 13, 1889 when there were fewer than ten homes scattered across all of today’s Mill Valley. On May 31, 1890 the Tamalpais Land & Water Co. auctioned off more than 200 lots. Several purchasers established camps on their property. During the next few years as homes were built on the camp sites and as year-round residents became established, destinations such as Willow Camp (Stinson Beach) became attractive to San Franciscans seeking summer vacation spots. Bill Brown, his sister and his mother established a resort at Willow Camp providing tents and food for campers.

In 1905, the first Dipsea race was held. It started in Mill Valley and ended At the Dipsea Inn situated on the sand spit [Seadrift], not far from the Brown’s resort. Shortly thereafter, the Brown’s sold the resort and moved to Homestead.

Bill built a house on Montford near Miller. The 1910 census lists him as a merchant and his sister Dolly a saleslady, both in the retail grocery business. His mother Lucinda lived with them.

Bill Brown later opened a saloon known as The Brown Jug on the corner of Miller and Montford. Prohibition caused its closure in 1921. It reopened in 1933 with the same name, but became the 2 A.M. Club in about 1940.


If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.