Camp Tamalpais


November, 2000

Today we know it as Tamalpais Canyon. The entrance faces Stolte Grove. Tamalpais Drive follows the creek past large redwood trees, several cars in a parking lot and a bank of about 25 mail boxes. The road soon becomes stairs passing a few houses and following Reed Creek up to the Cowboy Rock and Ridgewood trails that access Homestead’s open space lands.

Where are all the houses that go with those mail boxes and cars? Many are perched on hillsides accessed by foot paths such as Park Way and Charles Lane. Residents climb as many as 200 steps to enjoy life in a canyon surrounded by redwoods, bay trees and ferns.

Tam Canyon was originally block 12 on Tamalpais Land and Water CompanyMap No. 7 of Homestead Valley surveyed in 1903. This 10.66 acre parcel was subdivided in 1908 into 137 lots. That’s an average lot size of 3389 square feet. Today’s county regulations for this area specify a minimum lot size of 7500 square feet if the lot is flat, 15,000 on a 20% slope and 30,000 on a 30% slope. At the entrance on an arch made from redwood logs was a sign that said Camp Tamalpais.

In 1910, the San Francisco Examiner advertised lots for sale at $75 which could be paid for in $5 monthly installments after a down payment of $15. For an additional $23, the developer would provide a tent platform on the lot with a 10’x12′ tent and a folding cot. Reed Creek was dammed for a swimming pool where the parking lot is today. Cooking was done on a large fireplace behind where the mail boxes are today. Water was supplied from the Belvedere reservoir. San Francisco families escaped summer fog by camping out in Camp Tamalpais. Small cottages soon replaced tents. Lots were later combined for larger houses.

The depression of the 1930’s caused the demise of Camp Tamalpais as a summer resort. Year-round residents seeking seclusion and privacy moved in. Tam Canyon became a colony of artists and writers. In 1940, a storm caused a house to slide down the hillside. Two people in the cottage below were killed. By the sixties there were quite a few families in the canyon, a great place for children to grow up. One father managed to provide TV for his kids by installing an antenna on top of a tall redwood tree.

Tam Canyon is still a beautiful place to live.

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.