In 1904, Pearl Heckman came west from Wisconsin with her mother and seven younger brothers and sisters. She was 18 years old. Her father built a large house for them on the site of the old Homestead at the corner of Ethel and Montford. In her oral history Pearl states that before World War I the whole family used to attend dances in a hall in Homestead Valley.
A 1924 map shows a large building on the east side of Richardson (now Linden Lane) just south of Evergreen. Its dimensions appear to be about 35 ft. by 75 ft. The History room in the Mill Valley library has a panoramic photograph of Homestead Valley taken in the 1920’s. It clearly shows the dance hall in a location consistent with the 1924 map.
During the 1920’s, there was also a speak-easy nearby on the corner of Richardson (now Montford) and Ethel. At that time, Virginia Stolte lived at the other end of Montford and attended Homestead School. Her oral history mentions living in Upper Homestead, the address her father Fred Stolte used in telephone books. He admonished her never to go beyond the school to Lower Homestead because there was a red light district down there.
Putting all this together, Lower Homestead during the roaring twenties had a a dance hall, a speak easy and a red light district. Should be a story here.
Mary Bettencourt (Mrs. Tony Brabo) still lives on the property at the corner of LaVerne and Reed in Lower Homestead where she was born. She attended the original Homestead School on Janes before 1920. Mary remembers the dance hall very well because she went there for catechism lessons. Every week, nuns came from the church to teach Homestead children their catechisms. It was known as Homestead Hall. She recalls movies being shown there until the Sequoia Theater opened in February 1929. In the early Thirties the hall was sold and converted into a residence.
So there you have it. The dance hall was used for catechism lessons and movies. Not very exciting stuff.
The terms Upper and Lower Homestead were thought to have been lost to antiquity. However, a San Francisco real estate broker recently resurrected the concept. Her brochure promoted the sale of 360 LaVerne as being located in Upper Homestead Valley.
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.