In 1898, tenant dairyman John Dias purchased 420 acres from the Tamalpais Land & Water Company. The Dias ranch house, cow barns and dairy were near the corner of Shoreline Highway and Panoramic Highway. In 1904 he purchased an adjacent 20 acres on Ridgewood Ave. in Homestead Valley where he built a four-bedroom, one-bath house, a bunkhouse for hired hands, a cookhouse and barns for dry cows, calves and bulls. He named the property Hill Ranch.
The above photo was taken in 1987. The property owner at the time reports that the building was then very old. It is probably one of the original outbuildings, perhaps the bunkhouse.
Hill Ranch was the headquarters for the Dias Ranch, which included several hundred acres of owned and leased land. John Dias and his wife Ida lived in the four-bedroom, one-bath Hill Ranch house with their four sons and four daughters. In 1917, John Dias died after having been kicked by a bull. He had become a wealthy rancher, a director of the Bank of Mill Valley and a prominent leader in Marin’s Portuguese community. The eldest son, James, took over management of the ranch.
In 1921, Alex and Mary McCurdy rented the Hill Ranch house from Ida Dias. In 1927, the McCurdy’s bought the house. Alex was chief of police in Mill Valley from 1926 to 1935. The McCurdys raised two children at Hill Ranch, a son named William and a daughter Mary Baker whose son Bill Baker lived there until 1982. Hill Ranch then sat empty until 1992 when it was demolished and replaced by a Tudor style mansion. The 3.67-acre site which can never be subdivided is adjacent to open space land.
Most of the original Dias Ranch is now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Mt. Tamalpais State Park and Homestead Valley Open Space.
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.