Rural Homestead Valley


August, 2014

Rural Reed St., one block from Miller Avenue - click to enlarge

Rural Reed St., one block from Miller Avenue – click to enlarge

A few years ago, several residents opposed installing a sidewalk on Evergreen Ave. because it would detract from the rural character of Homestead Valley. They did not want Homestead Valley to become more like Mill Valley. The Tamalpais Land & Water Co. (TL&WC) subdivided Eastland and Millwood with the intention of establishing the town of Mill Valley. But TL&WC subdivided Homestead Valley as a rural community.

The Town of Mill Valley
In 1889, TL&WC was chartered as a corporation whose only asset was the 14,000-acre Rancho Sausalito in southern Marin County. The directors immediately began land development southwest of the main creek that runs through today’s Mill Valley. They recognized that access from the Sausalito to San Rafael road and the railroad stop at Alto would be inadequate: the County Road from Alto (now East Blithedale) and a primitive ranch road (now outbound Miller Ave.). A 1.74-mile branch railroad line was therefore constructed to bring the town site within 50 minutes of San Francisco. Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy developed a plan with streets designed for horse drawn vehicles. Construction of the streets and connecting foot paths began soon thereafter. Downtown would be at the train depot on the corner of Miller and Throckmorton. Property sales began at the May 1890 auction in Old Mill Park.

O’Shaughnessy’s Map No. 1 of Eastland and Millwood (later part of Mill Valley) covered 600 acres with about 500 building sites. Sewer lines were installed under many of the streets and a water supply network was completed by October, 1890. Thus many property purchasers could connect their homes to both water and sewer systems. Subsequent Map Nos. 2, 5 and 8 expanded the land development. In 1900, the town of Mill Valley was incorporated. Streets near downtown had sidewalks. Outside of TL&WC’s area, developers provided curbed sidewalks on streets in the Sunnyside Tract in 1902 and the Tamalpais Park subdivision in1906.

Rural Homestead Valley
In 1903, TL&WC subdivided Homestead Valley with no provision for water supply or sewers. Lot purchasers dug a well or tapped a spring, and installed an out house or a septic tank. MMWD water arrived in the 1920s, and sewer connections came in 1948. From 1914 to 1948, residents’ mail was addressed to a street followed by “RFD #1, Sausalito”. [Rural Free Delivery]. House numbers were rare. Homestead Valley had several farms and ranches: the Dias Ranch headquarters and dry cow operation; the Eells 8-acre gentleman’s farm; the Silva chicken ranch; the Bettancourt farm; the Santos farm; and the Okubara chicken ranch. In 1975, Rancho del Topé became the Pixie Trail open space land — goats sill graze there.. Homestead’s rural character survives.

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.