Vignette > Miyajima

Miyajima Entrance

In 1876, George T. Marsh opened a store in the new Palace Hotel that sold Japanese fine arts and jewelry. He introduced Japanese art into the United States. Born in Richmond near Melbourne, Australia he had lived in Japan as a teenager. His company ultimately had stores in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Carmel and Monterey. He was responsible for naming San Francisco’s Richmond District after his birthplace.  In 1892 he acquired a 32-acre parcel in Blithedale Canyon. He had Japanese carpenters construct a small genuine Japanese house without a nail. Next came a three-story house in 1895 constructed with wood from the demolished theater of the 1894 Mid-Winter Fair in San Francisco. Later constructed were three cottages, a clubhouse, a tree house, a stage with dressing rooms underneath, a natural amphitheater with seats for 200, a barn for several horses, and a storage building. Marsh named his Japanese Village Miyajima (the Owl’s Nest). The Mill Valley & Tamalpais Scenic Railway that began service in 1896 had a stop in Blithedale Canyon named Marsh. The entrance to Miyajima, heavily laden with wisteria in springtime, resembled the temple gate at Nikko, Japan.  Lanterns and oriental pottery ornamented the garden.