Marin Independent Journal

The famed tavern atop Mount Tamalpais


Last month's storm brought snow to Mount Tamalpais, and although not rare, it's an uncommon sight to see the summit of our mountain blanketed in winter white. The January 1913storm not only covered the summit of Mt. Tamalpais but dropped 6inches of snow in most of the towns at the foot of the mountain. The Tamalpais Tavern, built by the Mill Valley & Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway, opened in 1896 on land owned by the Tamalpais Land and Water Co. The tavern offered visitors comfortabl­e accommodat­ions and spectacula­r views overlookin­g the beaches west to the Farallon Islands and east to Mount Diablo. A columnist for the Petaluma Morning Daily Courier wrote that the location provided “a sight terrestria­l and celestial that men have travelled hundreds of miles to see.” Within weeks of its opening,

California Gov. James H. Budd and his entire staff rented the tavern and, according to a San Francisco Call article, “will view the sunset and sunrise and will discuss state affairs from a high standpoint.”

The railway ran two trains

a day up to the tavern from downtown Mill Valley. The tavern expanded its overnight accommodat­ions in 1900 and added a dance pavilion. After a spur line was added in 1907, visitors could also travel from the tavern to Muir Woods. The

famous gravity cars were added at this time for a ride down the mountain on what was called “the crookedest railroad in the world.” For many years, local and outof-state guests, along with luminaries of the political and cultural world, visited the mountainto­p and stayed at the tavern.

In 1916, the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) purchased the land the tavern was on, along with all three peaks of the mountain. In 1923, a small kitchen fire spread to the surroundin­g buildings and destroyed most of the structure. It was rebuilt a year later as a smaller, onestory building, which did not offer overnight accommodat­ions. With the opening of Ridgecrest Boulevard to automobile­s in 1925, the tavern and Muir Woods became accessible by automobile and in 1930, the “scenic railroad” ceased operation. The tavern became the property of MMWD but was still a favorite spot for organizati­ons to hold their meetings, luncheons and dinners. A 1933 Mill Valley Record article noted that the tavern “has become popular as a place of entertainm­ent for organizati­ons when they desire to provide an event of unusual interest.”

By the early 1940s, the tavern had changed hands and in 1943, the Army Air Force was quartered there for the duration of the war. The tavern reopened to guests after the war, but its heyday was over. The MMWD eventually sold a portion of the East Peak and the tavern to the State of California, which made it a state park. One of the last public events at the tavern was a 1949New Year's dance, hosted by Don's Sequoians, a seven-piece orchestra led by Don Urquhart. The tavern closed down within a few months and was razed in 1950by MMWD.

History Watch is written by Scott Fletcher, a volunteer at the Marin History Museum, marinhisto­ Images included in History Watch are available for purchase by calling 415-382-1182 or by email at info@ marinhisto­

 ?? COURTESY OF MARIN HISTORY MUSEUM ?? The Tamalpais Tavern pictured covered in snow in 1913during a storm.
COURTESY OF MARIN HISTORY MUSEUM The Tamalpais Tavern pictured covered in snow in 1913during a storm.

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