MarinReal EstateUncategorized January 15, 2017

Marin County’s Fifty-Three Oldest Historic Structures!

As a life-long learner, lover of history, and Marin County realtor, I recently became curious about the oldest structures that remain standing in our County.  Thinking that this list would be relatively easy to compile given the number of books and articles that have been written about Marin’s history I set off to research the topic.  It didn’t take me long to realize however that such a list does not in fact exist because as I learned it is very difficult to compile!  So amazingly, what started out as a simple goal of identifying Marin’s ten oldest structures, morphed into a list that is perhaps the first list of its kind:  Marin County’s fifty – three oldest structures built between 1776 and 1879!  And please don’t ask me why it’s fifty-three.  I guess I got carried away and had to stop somewhere!

Point Reyes National Seashore Lighthouse built in 1870


So immediately after my initial discovery I shifted gears and I began the lengthy process of poring through books and documents about Marin’s history.  I visited the Marin Civic Center Planning Department where I interviewed the County Planner.  She provided copies of the original tract maps from the Mexican land grants and directed me to the Anne T Kent California Room at the Civic Center Library to speak with the reference librarian who was very helpful and was quickly able to select a number of useful books and documents to get me organized.  I rounded out my research by studying websites maintained by Marin’s various cities and historical societies, reading through articles on the internet, examining property records available to me as a realtor, and studying the list of Marin’s historic landmarks maintained by the Federal Government.  I personally visited at least 25 buildings to verify their existence and satisfy myself as to when they were constructed.  Even with all of this work I cannot say that my list is 100% correct as I am likely a missing a few structures here and there particularly in West Marin where there exist today a number of properties (homes, ranch buildings, & commercial buildings) that were built prior to the Civil War.  Additionally, I found conflicting dates of construction but did my best where possible to err on the conservative side.  What I can honestly say is that I believe that I’m close and because of this I’ve decided to make this an ongoing hobby until I get it right!

Old Mahon Hotel Built in 1859 located at 1330 Fourth St San Rafael



Before I share the list let’s take a moment to go back in history to when Europeans first arrived since until that point Marin was inhabited by the Miwok Indians. The earliest Europeans to reach San Francisco were Spanish explorers in 1769, led by Don Gaspar de Portolà and Juan Crespi. The Spanish immediately recognized that the San Francisco Harbor and surrounding areas were of great strategic significance. Subsequent expeditions in 1774 laid plans for the establishment of military and religious settlements. In 1776 the Presidio of San Francisco was established for the military and Mission San Francisco de Asís was founded to begin the cultural and religious conversion of some 10,000 Ohlone Indians who lived in the area. Eventually, the mission became known as Mission Dolores.

Saint Raphaels Roman Catholic Church at 1104 5th Avenue in San Rafael


Not long thereafter, the Spanish moved into Marin County and on December 14, 1817 founded Mission San Rafael Arcángel, as “sub-mission” of the San Francisco Mission to treat their sick population (now known as St Raphaels).  St. Raphaels incidentally recently celebrated its 200th anniversary and although little remains of any of its original structures I feel it has earned its place as the second oldest structure in Marin County (see list below).  In 1822 Mexico defeated the Spanish, earned their independence, and assumed governance of California.  It was after this momentous occasion that a large number of European Settlers migrated to Marin.  Mexico’s land grant system rewarded loyal and industrious citizens with large swaths of Marin’s lands to develop and govern.  It was these land grants that placed Marin’s lands into the hands of such well known Marin historical figures as John Reed, William Richardson, Timothy Murphy, James Ross, James Miller, Domingo Sais, and others. It is this group of men that are largely responsible for the subsequent establishment of Marin’s cities, neighborhoods, and commercial businesses.

Tomales Presbyterian Church built in 1868

Hans Iverson House – 614 E Street San Rafael built in 1871


So it is with great pleasure that I present you with the first list of the fifty- three oldest structures still standing in Marin.  Incidentally, this is a good place to say that this is a very fortunate group as I can’t tell you how many interesting properties burned to the ground over the years that would have easily made this list!

Your input, clarifications, and contributions are greatly appreciated!

Olema Lime Kilns built in 1850

Marin County’s Fifty-Three Oldest Structures

1)     Old Adobe House – Olompali State Park – 8091 Redwood Highway 1776
2)     Mission San Rafael (rebuilt 1870 and again in 1919 after fire) 1817
3)     John Reed’s Sawmill – Old Mill Park Mill Valley 1830
4)     W. T. Coleman House – 1130 Mission Avenue San Rafael 1849
5)     Olema Lime Kilns – 300 ft. west of State Hwy 1 (P.M. 22.1) 1850
6)     Smiley’s Saloon Hotel – 41 Wharf Road Bolinas 1851
7)     San Quentin Prison – San Quentin 1852
8)     Parks Ranch Home – Tomales 1853
9)     St Vincent’s School for Boys – San Rafael 1855
10)  Pierce Ranch – Home and other structures – Inverness 1856
11)  Site of Hotel Marin (Mahon Hotel) – 1330 Fourth Street, San Rafael 1859
12)  Olema tiny commercial building at 10045 Sir Francis Drake Blvd 1859
13)  Olema Farmhouse Restaurant – 10005 Shoreline Highway 1860
14)  Angel Island – Camp Reynolds officer’s quarters 1863
15)  Bradford House – 333 G Street San Rafael 1863
16)  Octagon House – Art and Garden Center – Ross 1864
17)  Dixie School House – Marinwood (San Rafael) 1864
18)  John Sims Home (originally located at Fifth and Eye San Rafael, moved to 5th and B in 1883 then moved to current location at 21 Main Street in 1903 1865
19)  The Horn House/Iroquois Village – 215 South Street Sausalito 1865
20)  Old St Mary’s of Nicasio Valley 1867
21)  Burbank Ranch Home – Tomales 1867
22)  Tomales Presbyterian Church 1868
23)  Michael J O’Connor Home (on grounds of Marin Academy) 1868
24)  Sais Family Home – 10 Olema Road Fairfax 1868
25)  The Bower/Gardener House – 47 Girard Street, Sausalito 1869
26)  Original Sausalito School House – West and Main Streets Sausalito – now part of a private residence with considerable renovation 1869
27)  St Pauls Episcopal Church – San Rafael 1869
28)  San Francisco and Northern Pacific Railroad Station House – Tiburon 1869
29)  James McMillan Shafter House – Olema 1869
30)  Wildcare Building 76 Albert Park Lane San Rafael – moved from St Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael 1870
31)  Richardson’s School House – Between Bridgeway and Filbert St in Sausalito.  Now a private residence 1870
32)  Tiburon Art & Garden Center – 841 Tiburon Blvd 1870
33)  Rancho Olompali – Novato 1870
34)  Point Reyes Light Station 1870
35)  Boyle Mansion – 10 Manor Terrace Mill Valley 1871
36)  Nicasio School – Nicasio 1871
37)  Hans Iverson House – 614 E Street San Rafael 1871
38)  First Richardson School – 1709 Bridgeway Sausalito 1871
39)  Rety/Domerque House – 323 Pine Street Sausalito 1871
40)  Tellinghast Estate – 168 Harrison Avenue Sausalito 1873
41)  Green Brae Brick Yard – Larkspur 1874
42)  Burdell Frame House – Novato 1874
43)  Wosser House – 574 Pine Street Sausalito 1874
44)  Ritchie House – Madrona Cottage – 76 Cazneau Sausalito 1874
45)  McCabe Home – 255 D Street San Rafael 1875
46)  Griswold House – 636 Main Street Sausalito 1875
47)  Fashion Shop & Stephen Porcella  House – Novato 1875
48)  Benjamin and Hilarita Lyford House – Tiburon 1876
49)  James Moore House – 2 Lagunitas Road, Ross 1876
50)  Olema Hotel – Olema CA 1876
51)  Pt Bonita Light House 1877
52)  Robert Dollar Estate – 115 J Street San Rafael 1879
53)  Boyd House – 1125 B Street San Rafael 1879