Welcome to Mill Valley
Location and History
Just ten minutes north of San Francisco, Mill Valley is located on the western and northern shores of Richardson Bay. Beyond the flat coastal area and marshlands, it occupies narrow wooded canyons, mostly of second-growth redwoods, on the eastern slopes of Mount Tamalpais. The combination of Mill Valley's idyllic location nestled beneath Mount Tamalpais coupled with its ease of access to nearby San Francisco has made it a popular home for many high-income commuters. In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Mill Valley tenth on its list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States. In 2007, MSN and Forbes magazine ranked Mill Valley seventy-third on its "Most expensive zip codes in America" list.
The history of Mill Valley began with John Reed. In 1834, the governor of Alta California Jose Figueroa awarded to John T. Reed the first land grant in Marin, Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio. Just west of that, Rancho Saucelito was transferred to and developed by William A. Richardson in 1838. Richardson's name was later applied to Richardson Bay, an arm of the San Francisco Bay that brushes up against the eastern edge of Mill Valley. Richardson sold butter, milk and beef to San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Shortly thereafter, he made several poor investments and wound up massively in debt to many creditors. The rest of the rancho, including the part of what is now Mill Valley that did not already belong to Reed's heirs, was given to his administrator Samuel P. Throckmorton. Subsequent to the acquisition of the large land grant in 1834, Reed built a sawmill in 1836 on Cascade Creek to provide wood for the construction of his house. The mill, which gave Mill Valley its name, is now restored and stands among the towering redwoods in Old Mill Park, a few blocks from downtown. As payment of a debt, Throckmorton acquired a large portion of Rancho Saucelito in 1853-4 and built his own rancho "The Homestead" on what is now Linden Lane and Montford Avenue. Richardson and Reed had never formalized the boundary lines separating their ranchos. Richardson's heirs successfully sued Reed's heirs in 1860 claiming the mill was built on their property. The border was officially marked as running along the Corte Madera Creek along present day Miller Avenue. Everything to the east of the creek was Reed property, and everything to the west was Richardson land. It was Richardson's territory that would soon become part of Mill Valley when Throckmorton's daughter Suzanna was forced to relinquish several thousand acres to the San Francisco Savings & Union Bank to satisfy a debt of $100,000 against the estate in 1889. The San Francisco Savings & Union Bank organized the Tamalpais Land & Water Company in 1889 as an agency for disposing of the Richardson land gained from the Throckmorton debt. On 31 May 1890, nearly 3,000 people attended The Tamalpais Land & Water Co. land auction near the now-crumbling sawmill. More than 200 acres were sold that day in the areas of present day Throckmorton, Cascade, Lovell, Summit, and Miller Avenues and extending to the west side of Corte Madera Avenue. By 1892 there were two schools in the area and a few churches]. The auction also brought into Mill Valley architects, builders, and craftsmen. In 1896 a mountain railway, nicknamed "The Crookedest Railroad in the World," carried passengers from town to the Mt. Tamalpais' summit and to Muir Woods. Although the tracks were removed in 1930, the Old Railroad Grade is currently very popular with hikers and bikers. By 1900 the population was nearing 900 and the locals pushed out the Tamalpais Land & Water Co. in favor of incorporation. Tamalpais High School opened in 1907, the first city hall was erected in 1908, and Andrew Carnegie's library in 1910. The Post Office opened under the name "Eastland", however after many objections, it was changed to "Mill Valley" in 1904
Bordered on three sides by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument, Mt. Tamalpais State Park and watershed, Mill Valley offers spectacular recreational opportunities. But this is only part of its attractions. The people that have chosen to live here, from rock stars, artists, and nationally known authors, to business executives and political radicals; all are part of the eclectic mixture of talented folks who came for the pleasure of normalcy and anonymity to live in this incredibly beautiful and charming town. From the spectacular vistas atop Mount Tam, back-woods hiking, or a lazy weekend drive to the beaches, Mill Valley is an outdoor lover's paradise.
Town of Mill Valley
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,600 people, 6,147 households, and 3,417 families residing in the city. There were 6,147 households out of which 27.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 7.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.4% were non-families. The median income for a household in the city was $90,794, and the median income for a family was $119,669. The median single-family home price in the city was $1,500,000 as of January 2005.
Strawberry is an unincorporated segment of the town to the east of Mill Valley. Other unincorporated segments with Mill Valley mailing addresses and within the Mill Valley School District include Tamalpais-Homestead Valley and Muir Beach. Smaller unincorporated areas include Alto and Almonte.
The Arts in Mill Valley
Mill Valley is known for being an "artsy" little town. Driving or walking downtown Mill Valley will discover many art galleries, coffee shops, and other hallmarks of a typical art town. In addition, the town has sponsored the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival for over fifty years and also the Mill Valley Film Festival, which is part of the California Film Institute, for over thirty years. In addition, Mill Valley's Chamber of Commerce has sponsored the annual Gourmet Food and Wine Tasting in Lytton Square for many years.
Theater arts also have a huge following in Mill Valley. In addition to supporting the local 142 Throckmorton Theatre, which hosts theater of all levels, Mill Valley is also home for the Marin Theatre Company, as well as the Mountain Play Association which hosts annual musical productions in the Cushing Memorial Amphitheater located in Mill Valley's neighboring Mount Tamalpais State Park. For several years the Curtain Theatre Group has also been performing annual free Shakespeare plays among the redwoods on the Old Mill Park Amphitheatre behind the Mill Valley Library.
Mill Valley is the home of several annual events, many of which attract national and international followings:
- Dipsea Race
- The Mountain Play
- Mill Valley Film Festival
- Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival
Mill Valley is served by two public school districts; Mill Valley School District on the elementary school level and Tamalpais Union High School District, which includes Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley.
Mill Valley School District is a well-respected public school district comprised of five elementary schools and one middle school. It serves Mill Valley and the unincorporated areas of Alto, Strawberry Point, Tamalpais Valley, Muir Beach, Panoramic Ridge, and Homestead Valley. Students enrolled in Mill Valley Elementary School District consistently score well above the state average on the California Standards Tests (CSTs). Support systems include GATE (Gifted and Talented Education), Special Education, and academic support for English language learners. Before and after childcare is available at all elementary schools in the Mill Valley School District.
Tamalpais Union High School District is an extremely high performing district in a very active, supportive, and educated community. Annually, 4,000 students are served in three comprehensive high schools and two alternative programs. In addition, the Adult and Community Education courses attract hundreds of community members each year.
In addition to the excellent public schools, there are several private campuses in Mill Valley.