Steps, Lanes, and Paths


September, 2008

Some of the Lanes in Homestead Valley – click to enlarge

In 1910, John and Ida Dias and their eight children lived at Hill Ranch, which served as the headquarters for the Dias Ranch, a dairy of several hundred acres. When a member of the family or a hired hand at Hill Ranch needed to go to Homestead School, or to Cooper’s Grocery and the LaVerne Post Office on Linden Lane, or to the Locust train station, or perhaps to the Brown Jug (now the 2AM Club), they walked. Their route down the hill was by way of the lane shown in the above map. It was too much trouble to take a horse or a horse drawn vehicle to go such a short distance. And why walk all the way down Ridgewood to Ferndale when they could take a short cut down the lane. Incidentally, the lane is still in use.

Steps, lanes and paths were a key part of late nineteenth and early twentieth century land developments. Here are a few significant pertinent milestones:

1884: The railroad from Sausalito to Corte Madera is rerouted to follow the present day multi-use path along Mill Valley’s waterfront to the newly completed Alto Tunnel.
1888: Tamalpais Land & Water Co. acquires Rancho Sausalito which encompasses most of southern Marin. Part of its northern border is the main creek in Mill Valley that flows through Blithedale Canyon and along Miller Ave. to the bay.
1889: A railroad spur off the main line is built along Miller Avenue to the Eastland depot, today’s plaza in Mill Valley.
1889 to 1905: Tamalpais Land & Water Co. issues subdivision maps for developments that are now in Mill Valley south of its main creek, Homestead Valley and Almonte.

In mapping these developments, surveyors laid out the streets in such a way so as not to be too steep for horses; they linked the streets with steps, lanes and paths which served as pedestrian short cuts as well as escape routes in case of such emergencies as a fire or an earthquake.

In the city of Mill Valley, there are over 175 heritage steps, lanes and paths. Many of these are identified in a guide/map published by the city in 2006. The map shows where they are developed, or undeveloped, passable or blocked. It also shows those that connect to lands and trails of Marin Open Space District, Homestead Valley Land Trust and Marin Municipal Water District. The map is for sale for $5 at the Mill Valley Public Library and in various downtown shops.

Homestead Valley and Almonte have only a few steps, lanes and paths—not all of them are passable. Several are frequently used by hikers and would be usable as escape routes. Some are commonly used to get to school, to Whole Foods, to the bus stop and perhaps even to the 2AM Club.

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.