The Oldest House


April, 2012

The Homestead, c. 1888. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The Homestead, c. 1888. Click on the image to see a larger version.

In 1866, Samuel Throckmorton, owner of Rancho Sausalito, built a hunting lodge which also served as ranch headquarters. It was located on the corner of today’s Montford Ave. and Ethel Ave. He named it “The Homestead.”

In 1880, Jacob Gardner and his family moved to “The Homestead”—he was the ranch superintendent. Ten years later, the family moved to “The Maples” a new house on Miller which prospective land buyers at the May 31, 1890 land auction would see as they passed by on the newly constructed railroad. In about 1900, a fire destroyed “The Homestead” house and adjacent out-buildings.

Cora Elizabeth Gardner was born in 1876 and lived at “The Homestead” from 1880 until 1890. In 1914, she had her 14-year old daughter Elinor prepare floor plans of the house and out-buildings as they existed prior to 1890.

The house had a living room, dining room, kitchen, butler’s pantry, servants quarters and two bedrooms. The floor plan shows the locations of built-in shelves and closets as well as tables, chairs, beds, a crib, dressers, wash stand, medicine cabinet, and a square piano. A room on the corner of the house is identified as a “milk house.” A “milk house” on a dairy ranch is normally a special building where fresh milk from the twice daily milking is cooled before loading into large cans.

The out-buildings were located about 30 feet back from the house. They included a turkey house, a chicken house, a tool shed, a wood shed, a jelly house, a pig pen, a hay barn, a stable with five horse stalls and room for three carriages, a sulky, and two buggies. The plan showed the locations of a well, a stock water trough, a water tank, a flower garden, a vegetable garden, an orchard (plums and crab apples for the jelly house), and fences. Surprisingly, there is no evidence of a privy.

In 1904, Herman Heckman bought the property and built a 13-room home for his family of eight children. The eldest child, Pearl, was 18 years old at the time. Her oral history states: “My father bought a three-cornered block bounded by Montford, Ethel and Evergreen. It had been the old Throckmorton place. His house had burned down, but the barn was still there. My father built our house right on the place where the burned down Throckmorton house had been.”

Pearl Heckman was likely referring to a barn where milking the cows took place, now 550 Ethel Ave. It is about 150 feet from the house and did not burn down. Herman Heckman had two cows that were likely milked in that barn. Assessor’s records list the construction year at 1885, long before the next oldest house, 543 Ethel, was built in 1903, the year that Homestead Valley was subdivided.

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.