The Rainbow Tunnel Shines On



by Brad Hathaway

In 1970, what is now CalTrans took a utilitarian piece of infrastructure and turned it into a landmark, comining the uniquely Marin-ish mixture of whimsey and wonder with the utility of a major highway structure.

As Alan S. Hart, the director of the San Francisco District of California’s Division of Highways, prepared to retire, he and his public information officer, Robert Halligan, came up with the idea of painting the southern portals of the Waldo Tunnels of U. S. Route 101 with a rainbow of colors. Hart didn’t bother to clear the idea with his superiors in Sacramento and it is reported that they were not pleased – but the public reaction was so positive they let the colors remain.

Originally, there had been just one tunnel. It was constructed in 1937 as part of the Golden Gate Bridge project to connect San Francisco with Marin County and the rest of Northern California. The tunnel was 1,000 feet long and the elevation at the entrance was 517 feet above sea level. It cost $630,346 in depression-era dollars.

By the 1950s the single, four lane tunnel had become something of a bottleneck sitting as it did just north of the six lane Golden Gate Bridge on the Redwood Highway. A second tunnel was drilled in 1954 so that the highway could handle four lanes in each direction. The cost of that second tunnel came in at $1,750,000.

After the portals to the tunnels took on the spectrum of the rainbow, legends that seem to die hard sprang up about hippies sneaking out in the middle of the night to surreptitiously apply the paint. After all, the age of flower-power and psychedelic color schemes was at its peak. The fact that no crew could have done the work in a single night didn’t seem to keep that legend from spreading.

As the fame of the tunnels grew, the rainbows became part of the area’s self-image, and the drive under the rainbow became a delight both for commuters approaching home and for tourists following the Redwood Highway to the north.

But time took its tole on the vibrancy of the rainbow spectrum. The paint faded badly. In the 1980s CalTrans repainted the portals, but by 2009 they needed another coat.

Enter Belinda Hallmark, a color consultant from Novato.

Hallmark read that CalTrans was planning on renewing the paint job and thought she might be able to be of assistance. After all, as a color consultant she knew a great deal about how different colors would go together and how different paints would behave.

Of course, a rainbow would include red. But which red? Green, but what shade of green? Yellow, but would the yellow be lemony or golden?

Hallmark feared that simply applying bands of primary colors might end up with the tunnels looking “more like a roll of Life Savers than like rainbows,” so she contacted CalTrans to offer her services – gratis.

With the cooperation of the paint team of CaTrans’ Maintenance Division 4, plans were laid for the job. Hallmark painted test swatches to judge not only how different colors would work together, but how they would behave in the wide range of lighting conditions the weather offers for those south-facing arches: direct sun through morning mists, sharp twilight shadows, rolling fog banks and wind-driven rains. As often as three times a day she would drive Route 101 to check the samples.

Not only did Hallmark help determine the colors to be used, she chose the paint and even got it donated for the project. Benjamin Moore’s Aura was the paint of choice and the company donated half of the paint required for the job. Their generosity was matched by Marin Color Services, Inc., the Benjamin Moore outlet in San Rafael and Novato.

There was thought about painting the north side portals as well, but they were in sight of private residences and not all the homeowners thought seeing painted rainbows was the view they wanted.

Hallmark convinced CalTrans officials that the north face of the tunnel and not just the arched portals shoud be painted. She chose a green for the flat surface and a grey tone for the pop-out concrete blocks. This was to provide a more distinct background for the rainbows.

In all, it took 30 gallons of paint for the rainbows themselves, 40 gallons for the wall surfaces as well as a total of 40 gallons of primer, and an additional 20 gallons of clear sealer for the rainbows.

CalTrans’ Jeff Buttte and his Richmond/Sn Rafael Bridge Painting Crew did the work in September and October of 2009 at a cost of about $142,000 for the 3,000 hour job. That included a dozen painters and a half-dozen person lane closure/traffic control crew. In all, almost 10,000 square feet of surface outside and within the tunnels were coated.

Hallmark still drives up to look at how the rainbows have fared. “There’s no sign of fading” to date, she says.

A sentiment echoed by my granddaughters who love to go through the Rainbow Tunnel!



Angel Island The gem off our coast



by Brad Hathaway

For most residents of Sausalito, the view from the water side of your home isn’t of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Belvedere Peninsula or even Strawberry Point. It is Angel Island which forms our front porch.

A book detailing The Islands of San Francisco Bay provides a wealth of information on the history of Angel Island from its geological formation to its role as a safe haven, a military installation, an immigration station and a park.

James A. Martin, who conceived of the book and wrote a good deal of it himself, visited the Sausalito Historical Society at its May meeting and explained that the project was more than just a textual one. He photographed the scenes on the bay’s major and minor island to make the book a thing of beauty as well as of interesting information.

Appropriately enough, in an introduction by Paul McHugh, the book begins with the history of the bay region itself, going back some fifteen thousand years to the peak of the last ice age when what are islands today were just hills on the plain that became the bay. Then, the ocean lay over 30 miles to the west of the Golden Gate and the rivers draining California flowed out to a huge cliff miles beyond the Faralons.

Today, Angel is one of seven major islands in the greater San Francisco Bay: in alphabetical order they are Alameda, Alcatraz, Angel, Bair, Brooks, Mare and Yerba Buena/Treasure. Each receives full attention in a separate chapter in Martin’s book, along with additional chapters on collections of less major outcroppings such as Red Rock and the Brothers and Sisters.

In Angel Island’s chapter, written by Jonah Owen Lamb, we learn that prior to the arrival of Europeans in the bay area, Angel Island had hosted occasional seasonal visits by Miwok people, but apparently it never had a permanent settlement. Then, in 1775, the San Carlos, a Spanish vessel under the command of Juan Manual de Ayala, became the first European vessel to sail into the bay.

Ayala named the island Isla de los Angeles and used a cove on the north side of the island as a base for extensive charting of the bay. That cove was named for the captain. Nearly forty years later the British Cormorant-class sloop Racoon beached at the cove for repairs. Using a more modern spelling, the strait between the island and what is now Tiburon, which is more than 200 feet deep, has become the Raccoon Straits.

In the 1830s, Antonio Maria Osio owned the island as part of a Mexican rancho and grazed a herd of Long Horn Cattle. He built houses for his cowboys and had a thriving business until Mexico lost California and he lost his rancho.

Lamb sketches the on-again, off-again history of military uses of the island between 1863 and the end of World War II. “Several gun batteries facing the Pacific were built by the military, and installations and bases around the island housed, shipped and trained soldiers for years” he says, adding that “to this day, the military presence still permeates the place.”

But it is, of course, the history of the use of Angel Island as a US Immigration Station that dominates the reputation of the island. It earns a separate sub-chapter in the book titled “Picture Brides and Paper Sons” in which Joe Mudnich sketches, in human terms, the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the 1907 “Gentlemen’s Agreement” with Japan which meant that the role of the facility was, as he says, “not so much to welcome most newcomers as to guard against them.” Mudnich points out that this history means that the station “was not exactly the ‘Ellis Island of the West’ as it is often called today.”

He says that between 1910 and 1940 as many as a million people, “mostly from China and Japan” were processed through the more than four dozen buildings on Angel Island’s “China Cove” before either entering or leaving the United States. The cove’s name, by the way, was a reference to Chinese shrimpers who camped there long before there was an Immigration Station there.

“Angel Island” was also the name of the 144-foot steamer that shuttled passengers back and forth between the island, San Francisco and the ships in the bay. Today, it is the name of the California state park which holds the entire island with the exception of an unused Coast Guard facility. Martin’s book contains as many as thirty five color photographs to illustrate its description of the island as it exists today, and the sketch of its history, which makes a visit to Sausalito’s “front porch” a day trip to remember.






El Monte Hotel

By Jack Tracy

One of the oldest and most widely known hotels in Sausalito was the El Monte. The El Monte began its hotel life as the Bon Ton around 1878, although parts of the structure may have been built prior to 1869. It was like many grand hotels of the era, catering to the wealthy class with accommodations for servants in adjoining small rooms. The suites were designed to encourage lengthy stays, and the management frowned on overnight guests. But like many "wooden palaces" of that time, the Bon Ton struggled financially while keeping up a facade of gracious standards for the likes of Claus Spreckels, the Crockers, and Robert Dollar. Under different managements over the years, the hotel was called the Clifton House, the El Monte, the Terrace, and the Geneva Hotel, and became a boarding house shortly before it was demolished in 1904.
It was under the ownership of Australian John E. Slinkey that the hotel, then known as the El Monte, acquired its greatest fame. Slinkey may not have lived up to his name literally, but he was crafty and energetic. He had a hand in almost everything that happened in Sausalito in the 1880s, and his El Monte was a gathering place for political and social groups. The guest list read like a Who's Who of San Francisco, and Slinkey catered to the guest's every whim. He even installed a bowling alley exclusively for the use of ladies. Many British and other visitors stayed at the El Monte as the first step to becoming permanent Sausalito residents.
This excerpt is from Jack Tracy’s seminal Sausalito history, “Moments in Time.” It is available at the Ice House historical exhibit and visitors’ center, 780 Bridgeway.

The El Monte Hotel,  c. 1897, above the “Pond,” which is now Vina del Mar Plaza.  An advertisement for Baldwin Jewelry in San Francisco hangs below street level   


The Origins of Sausalito Boulevard

The following story is taken from Jack Tracy’s book “Moments in Time.”

In 1885 Major Orson C. Miller and his wife moved from San Francisco to Sausalito, like so many others, with a plan in mind. Miller found title to the old moribund Saucelito Land & Drydock Company in the hands of a savings and loan society in San Francisco, and by September of 1887 the two had consummated a deal. Miller picked up all the unsold land in Old Town for $25,000.
He immediately set to work, surveying new streets and extending old ones further up the hillsides. He set up an auction house at the corner of Richardson and West Street and published a new map of available lots under the new corporate name: The Sausalito Bay Land Company. Miller’s new map of 1888 shows Sausalito Boulevard for the first time, a sweeping semicircle with panoramic views extending from New Town to the Pacific Yacht Club lands [The Trident, today]. Sausalito Boulevard, with gentle grades suitable for horse-drawn wagons, was the key in revving up interest in Old Town. Central Avenue was also graded as a link between unsold Old Town lots and the lands of the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company. The new roads made Old Town more accessible by land. Previously, the only passage was the rock-strewn rough beach called Water Street, which was indeed water at high tide.
“Sausalito: Moments in Time” is published by Windgate Press. It is available at the Ice House, 780 Bridgeway.

Sausalito Boulevard high above Old Town c1890. Courtesy Sausalito Historical Society.


A Meeting of Minds: Alan Olson and Murray Hunt

By Steefenie Wicks
“A Yachting Party:
Captain Mathew Turner, a well-known shipbuilder of Benicia, recently extended to his friends, an invitation on board his brigantine the GALILEE.  The guests had a delightful cruse for a week, visiting many points of interest. As fine entertainers, Captain and Mrs. Turner cannot be challenged.”
 The above is from a newspaper article printed in Benicia in the late 1890’s.  The ship GALILEE, finished in February 1891, made her first runs to Papeete, Tahiti in 22 ½ days and averaged 28 ½ days in 21 consecutive trips.
A few years ago I was able to bring together two men with one thing in common, their personal love and respect for the ship builder Mathew Turner. They were Alan Olson of the educational Tall Ship Society and Murray Hunt, the great-step grandson of Mathew Turner.  Recently, I sat down with Murray and Alan to talk about Mathew Turner and the new tall ship that is being built by Alan’s organization.
Murray Hunt, a very sharp and witty 95 year old, is the great step-grandson of Mathew Turner.  He has for the last few years complied a book on Turner and has filled it with family information and photos of Turner in both Benica and his home in San Francisco. Murray explains that Captain Turner was the second husband of his great grandmother, Ashbeline Mary Smith Rundle: “I grew up with stories of Captain Turner and I wish I had taken more interest in them but he was kind of like the family ‘hero’.  A family man, he married my great grandmother after her husband died. He raised her children as his and made sure they each had a fine education and even named ships that he built after them.”
Murray recalls that the schooner DOLLY was named after his grandmother Charlotte Jane Rundle in 1897 and in 1882 the schooner EVA was named after his great aunt Eva Turner Rundle.  Then in 1889 Turner built another schooner called EVA and this one was named after his mother, Eva Turner Chapman.
I asked Murray what he thought of Alan’s new project, the building of the ship GALILEE, and he said, “It’s wonderful and I’m just glad that I’m alive and can be part of this wonderful piece of maritime history.”
Later, I asked Alan, why the GALILEE?
His response was straightforward:  “When the idea of building a tall ship came about, my organization and I looked around at all the ships that had been built in this area and we kept coming back to the most prolific ship builder of that time, Mathew Turner.  Once we started looking into the Turner boats, he built and designed over 240 wooden sailing ships in his lifetime; it became clear that our choice would be to build the GALILEE.”
Murrayt went on to say, “In her day the GALILEE was the fastest ship designed for transport. Her speed made her a natural for the U.S. Postal service, cargo delivery service and just plain good and safe sailing.  We hope to bring her back and achieve some of that old history that the vessel became known for.
“This GALILEE, will be built from scratch and we hope it will only take between 18 to 20 months, with the help of students and volunteer carpenters.   Currently, my organization, Call of the Sea, takes out around 4,000 students on the Bay in a year.  We are hoping we can take out between 10 to 12 thousand students to teach them about the most important feature of where we live, the water.”
Olson’s plan is to design, build and rig the ship with the same material and methods that Turner used, although the new vessel will have a motor, new electronics and many modern features to help make her journeys a little more comfortable.  Sailing and comfort do go together and Olson, who has skippered the 40 foot cat AWAKENING, the 70 foot brigantine STONE WITCH,  the 54 foot schooner MARAME and numerous other vessels, seems to know what he talking about. Currently, he’s captain of the 100-year-old ocean going tug MIRENE, Stewart Brand’s liveaboard home.
He built his first boat when he was 22 in Minneapolis.  She was a 40-foot catamaran and he sailed her down the Mississippi and into the Caribbean.  He says he always had a calling that seemed to lead him to the sea.  He and Murray start to differ here because when I asked Murray Hunt if he had the same love of sailing he shook his head in reply; it seems he gets seasick.
Hunt goes on to say, “My first water experience was mostly fresh water kayaking.
I joined the Sierra Club River Touring section on the Peninsula when I was living in Menlo Park.  We had a small group that liked to kayak together and we called ourselves the Loma Prieta Paddlers.  We did kayak trips on all the coastal and Foothill Rivers and even did some kayak surfing in Santa Cruz and Bolinas.
 “I envy Alan and what he has accomplished but I’m glad to be a little part of this project. It’s such a great tribute to my great step-grandfather Mathew Turner and for our families. “
Alan adds, “This project helps to maintain the maritime history that we are not only part of but share a duty in keeping this art of ship building alive for our future sailors.”
The brigantine keel-laying ceremony takes place October 19 from 1 to 3 pm at 2330 Marinship Way.

Murray Hunt (front) and Alan Olson.
Photo by Steefenie Wicks