Tony Brabo had an old photograph of Homestead Valley. It was given to him about sixty years ago by Harry Wilhelm who took the picture in 1907 from his mansion between Ferndale and Ridgewood. Harry must have had an excellent camera. The Alto power station 1.25 miles away on the other side of Richardson Bay is easily identified. About a half a mile away is a large building on Evergreen where Whole Foods is today. Painted on the roof of the building is “The Doherty Co.”, a lumber yard.
The first lumber yard in Mill Valley was on the creek between what are now the inbound and outbound lanes of Miller Ave. at Millwood St. Until recently, it was the Mill Valley Lumber Co. In about 1891, Robert Dollar had established the Dollar Lumber Co. at this location. Yes, the famous lumber baron, shipping magnate and philanthropist, Robert Dollar (1844 – 1932) who became one of Marin’s wealthiest citizens; his San Rafael mansion, Falkirk, still stands as a Marin treasure.
In 1898, J. H. Mc Innes bought the Dollar Lumber Co. By 1905, ownership had passed to The Doherty Company which also owned lumber yards in Larkspur and on Evergreen Ave. in Homestead Valley. In 1908, the Evergreen Ave lumber yard included a mill. In 1910, The Doherty Co. established its main office at the Homestead Valley lumber yard.
In 1903, John Yost was an employee in the lumber yard on Miller Ave. when Mc Innes owned it. Yost’s brother-in-law, Herman Heckman, was a carpenter who lived with his wife (Yost’s sister) and their eight children in a small Wisconsin town. John wrote Herman about the good life in Mill Valley and the opportunities for a carpenter. He talked Herman into coming out to take a look. Herman came and was readily sold on Mill Valley. He bought the triangular property in Homestead delineated by Evergreen, Linden Lane and Ethel. He also built a mill next to the lumber yard on Miller (now Vogue Cleaners) where he manufactured doors, windows, cabinets and other wood products. In 1904 he sent for his family and built a 13 room house on the corner of Ethel and Linden Lane, the site of The Homestead which had burned down in 1900.
A Northwestern Pacific R.R. Co. map dated July 14, 1914 shows an ell shaped shed on the corner of Miller and Evergreen. The “Doherty Spur” takes off from the Mill Valley tracks at Reed St., crosses Miller, traverses about ¾ of the block and ends in the middle of the lumber shed on Evergreen. Also shown on the map is a small Lime House on Miller next to the “Doherty Spur”. A Hay Barn is behind the lumber shed on Evergreen.
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.