VIGNETTE > The Old Mill


The Old Mill in the 1890s

Mill Valley’s name comes from its most famous manmade landmark, a mill on the creek in Cascade Canyon built by John Reed in about 1835. It was the first mill built in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is now (although rebuilt) the oldest standing mill in California. John Reed came to San Francisco in 1826. In 1834 he obtained a land grant for Rancho de Corte Madera del Presidio (cut wood for the Presidio). Reed’s mill initially made timbers for construction of his residence, but subsequently produced lumber for sale. The construction of the mill was a mortise and tendon joint system secured with oak pegs. The mill was driven by an undershot wheel. Water came from a mill pond behind a dam on the creek. Redwood trees were felled in Cascade Canyon and hauled to the mill by oxen. In 1849 a more efficient steam-powered mill in Sausalito rendered Reed’s mill obsolete.  By 1890, it had deteriorated, but was spruced up for the land auction. Restoration work was done in 1947 and again in 1959.  Reconstruction was begun in 1984 and completed in 1991.