Chez Theuriet in the 1920s


July, 2012

Leo and Suzanne Theuriet lived in a Homestead Valley mansion during the roaring twenties, a time of prosperity. In Mill Valley, real estate prices were surging, automobile ownership was growing and business was booming. They had immigrated from France in 1910 and moved to Homestead in 1918. Leo was a master diamond cutter.

At first, Leo commuted to his jewelry manufacturing business in the Phelan Building in San Francisco, often with his friend and neighbor, Auguste Galet, owner of Galet Mirror & Glass Beveling Works at 8th and Mission. Auguste and his wife Amelie, were often guests at the Theuriet mansion. After Leo began jewelry manufacturing in his atelier located in the small house next door, he hired Al Tafuri, an Italian jewelry maker, as foreman. Leo focused on jewelry design and marketing. Al lived in the mansion as a boarder, and supervised manufacturing in the atelier.

In 1920, a gardener’s cottage was built on the property. Plinio Perucchi and his wife Emilia arrived there in 1928 with their one-year old son. Both parents had emigrated from the Italian speaking region of Switzerland. Plinio reportedly raised 105 different types of flowers on the property. Flowers were an important feature of the Theuriet parties. Emilia helped Suzanne in the house. Suzanne probably understood Italian-her father was Italian.

Ivan Kompf, son of Julius and Fannie Kompf who had lived on Janes St. since 1904, recalled that as a teenager in the mid-1920s he had the job of sweeping out the Theuriet atelier every Saturday. He was also often called upon to clean up after the parties that the Theuriets held for wealthy customers as well as Hollywood stars including Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Maurice Chevalier. Ivan told his 2 AM Club drinking buddy Ray Miller about the parties. My information comes from Ray.

Leo likely ordered French champagne and wines for the parties from his Sausalito bootlegger. Ships loaded with alcoholic beverages sailed down the coast from Vancouver, and lay offshore for several days. Smugglers in small boats picked up their orders at night. Delivery to Sausalito bootleggers was often via Tennessee Valley. Catching smugglers and bootleggers was the responsibility of federal enforcement agents known as “Prohibes”. Leo’s closest neighbor and good friend, Mill Valley police chief Alex McCurdy, posed no problem.

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.