New Year’s Optimism in 1888

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society
The Sausalito railroad and ferry wharf was a commercial hub in 1888. The sign on the barn at left center advertises an auction for “Building Lots and Villa Sites.”

The Sausalito railroad and ferry wharf was a commercial hub in 1888. The sign on the barn at left center advertises an auction for “Building Lots and Villa Sites.”

One hundred and thirty years ago, Sausalito was still an unincorporated village. But developers were busy attracting visitors, home buyers, and business enterprises to the growing community. All this activity led the Sausalito News to run the following optimistic New Year’s forecast:

With next Tuesday we will enter upon a New Year! With many new resolves and a fresh page opened to record the events of the future, another annual term commences! The prospects presented at this time are most encouraging. The past year has not been unprosperous; indeed it can be safely said that Sausalito, beautiful, healthful Sausalito, has made rapid strides towards becoming a town in the near future, and a town of consequence for its size at that. Those people who come here every summer to recuperate or get away from a busy city life for a little rest, all appreciate the natural advantages of Sausalito. Each season these visitors increase in number, and not a few of them buy property and make their homes here permanently. This has been the case in many past instances, and with the growing population, an equal amount of building and new homes become necessary to fill the needs and requirements of the new inhabitants.

No more beautiful or healthful spot is to be found on the coast than right here in Sausalito. The place has not yet been thickly settled, and nature still has her sway. You have the country here and yet are within a few minutes ride of the city. The air is always pure and bracing and the bright healthy complexions and appearances of its residents all proclaim it a desirable place to reside. Someday an eastern trans-continental railroad will find an entrance into San Francisco via Sausalito, and then the place will go ahead and build up rapidly and property will increase four-fold.

But what we have in sight at the present moment of benefit and advantage to our town is most encouraging. With the New Year we look forward at the very start to the immediate erection of a large complete manufactory for Electrical storage batteries, which will give employment to many people. There are great possibilities in this direction. If these batteries come into general use, as it is believed they will, it will take a small army of hands to turn out enough of these batteries to supply the demand, and all these people will reside here with their families and relations, and as a consequent result help to build up Sausalito. The Sausalito Bay Land company have in contemplation three handsome cottages near these works, and will build a number more when there is a demand for them, and will sell them on the installment plan. The Sausalito Land & Ferry company will be willing to do likewise, we have no doubt. So that as far as houses are concerned there will be nothing to find fault with. These same people will have to be supplied with the necessities of life, which will increase the business of the town and bring other merchants here. As to other building, there is a prospect of a good deal this spring. Over a dozen private parties have signified their intention of erecting houses on their property as soon as the winter is over, so that things generally will be lively during the first part of the coming year, with a prospect of continuing. The. S. L. &F. Co. are doing their best to get a permanent water supply at the tunnel they are boring at Shanghai Valley, and have good prospects of success; the present daily flow being over 50,000 gallons of water. Then to store this water supply the company will build on the crest of the hill overlooking the new school house, a reservoir that will hold over 4,000,000 gallons. The quality of the water is unexcelled, as it is pure mountain vintage. What actual results the coming year will bring forth remains to be seen. We are all hopeful, more or less, and with care and diligence may accomplish a great deal. A Iarge amount of work is laid out and, if carried out, we know that it must in a measure prove beneficial to our town in the coming NEW YEAR.

The Sausalito News can be searched and read online.  Go to, click on Links and then click on Sausalito News.

Will Your Christmas Present Be A Motor Car?

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

By the mid-1920s, the car culture was well underway in Sausalito. Not one but two ferry operators were bringing cars to and from Sausalito, and garages were springing up all over the downtown area. On the July 10th weekend of 1926, the combined Golden Gate and Northwestern Pacific ferries carried over 70,000 automobiles from Sausalito to San Francisco.

Not surprising, then, that the Sausalito News of December 12, 1925 carried a story claiming, “As the Christmas shopping season gets under way, many Christmas shoppers turn to the motor mart.”

CARTOON FROM SAUSALITO NEWS  Even Santa got in on the car craze of the 1920s.


Even Santa got in on the car craze of the 1920s.

The article is a blatant advertorial for one make – Chevrolet – but it offers some insights into the new craze that was sweeping the country: 

Each year the motor car becomes more popular as a Christmas gift. In families where no motor transportation now exists, the Chevrolet Is almost constantly discussed. There will be many cars of the various models of the line for Christmas delivery this year to families of California. The enclosed models are proving very popular with early Christmas shoppers and the heads of many local households are choosing the Chevrolet as the solution of all Christmas problems.


According to executives of the company, a great many families are pooling their Christmas funds and ordering automobiles. The Chevrolet is popular with this type of automotive purchaser and Is naturally coming in for a full share of the Christmas business.


An Increasing number of families are adding one or more cars to the family garage in order that the expense of operating the large sedan, coach or touring car may be eliminated. There are high school and college students, sons and daughters, who will be given automobiles for Christmas, and the Chevrolet will be well represented in this long list of Christmas purchases. Parked about the campus of most any high school or college of the country will be found an excellent representation of Chevrolet cars. Many of these represent Christmas presents of last year or the year before, but the number is to be greatly Increased with sedans, coaches, coupes, touring cars and roadsters being purchased in great numbers for Christmas delivery.

Robin Sweeny: The Making of an Activist

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

Sausalito’s first woman mayor, Robin Sweeny, was a pioneering eco-warrior before getting into politics.

Robin, who passed away last month at age 93, served for 28 years on the city council, and ended up serving as mayor four times. She first moved to Sausalito in 1953 and raised her family on a hillside home before moving to an ark in Waldo Point Harbor.

In a 1992 oral history, Robin explained how she first got involved in community activism.  Here’s that story, edited for length and clarity:

Back in the early sixties my husband felt that all of the development after the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge was taking place further north, and that Sausalito was the “sleepy little village under the bridge” and there was something about that that appealed to him.

Over time we began to notice little things happening in Sausalito that indicated the rules were changing.  The first thing that really astonished and frightened us, particularly folks who cared about the bay and the environment – the word “environmentalist” hadn’t been coined quite yet -- we picked up through a newsletter being circulated around town by people called the Sausalito Citizens’ Council – kind of town watchers. It described a project that was beginning to work its way through the planning processes of our city, a thing called Sausalito Properties. That was around 1962 or 1963.

This proposal was to develop all waterfront property from Napa Street clear down past Johnson Street and outboard of the then Sausalito Yacht Harbor. There were some 40 acres, and a proposal to fill 20 acres. This was a horrifying concept that involved a hotel, some commercial and some lagoon-type condominium living. Condominiums were then in their infancy, too. A prominent architect, John Lord King, who had done a number of other projects in Southern Marin, and an engineer named Elmo Hutchinson were moving the Sausalito Properties project along.

The city was not turning their nose up at it, and we were surprised to hear it was going into planning commission hearings. A few of us formed a group called SOS (Save Our Shore) and became watchdogs of the project. We appealed to the city council to consider the impact of doing such a thing. We didn't have the environmental quality act in those days, we didn’t even have a design review board. The BCDC wasn't there. Bay fill was a fact of life, happened all the time. No one was flustered by that, particularly, as we began to bring it to the attention of the town through petitions and what have you – we were very bold.  We called a press conference and the newspaper said “We won’t come to someone’s house for a press conference.  We’ll only acknowledge a press conference for an organization.”  And at that point we became an organization.

After a lot of machinations, we got to the place where the city council put a three-year moratorium on bay fill along the entire waterfront, which was very bold thing to do at that time. That was later challenged in court and I seem to recall we didn’t win the case. But in the meantime, the MacAteer-Petris Act came along, and as a result of that the Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission got jurisdiction over the bay and control of fill, and they superimposed a moratorium of their own for the entire San Francisco Bay.

Robin continued to be a voice for reason in the face of numerous development schemes, and recalled, “All of that led to people suggesting I run for public office.”  She was elected to the city council in 1968, and first became mayor in 1972.

During and after her time on the city council, Robin was active in several community organizations, including the Sausalito Woman’s Club, the Rotary Club, the Sausalito Historical Society, the Sausalito Cruising Club, the Sausalito Foundation, the Friends of the Sausalito Library, Chamber of Commerce and Marin Conservation League to name a few

I first met Robin in 1990 when I volunteered for the Mayor’s Select Blue Ribbon Garbage Committee, which she ran for the Sausalito Art Festival. Robin worked tirelessly yet cheerfully every day of the Festival for many years. Her efforts were rewarded when one visitor commented, “This place is cleaner than Disneyland.”

Robin is survived by her two daughters, Tara Sotter and Sarah Sweeny, and one granddaughter. No memorial service is scheduled.

For a look at similar ill-conceived developments and other wacky concepts that almost but never quite happened here, visit the Historical Society’s new exhibit, “The Sausalito That Never Was.” It is open to the public Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 1 PM on the top floor of City Hall.

Frank-Sweeny cartoon.Dec.18.jpg

Bohemia by the Bay

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society
PHOTO COURTESY OF SAUSALITO HISTORICAL SOCIETY  Allen Ginsberg (white t-shirt), Even Connell (suit and tie, near mast), Sally Stanford (jaunty hat) and Jean Varda (at tiller) are among the Bohemians aboard Varda’s boat.


Allen Ginsberg (white t-shirt), Even Connell (suit and tie, near mast), Sally Stanford (jaunty hat) and Jean Varda (at tiller) are among the Bohemians aboard Varda’s boat.

The postwar Beatniks discovered Southern Marin early on. In Jack Kerouac’s movement-shaping novel On the Road, based on a road trip he made in 1947, the Kerouac avatar Sal Paradise drives across the Golden Gate Bridge to visit a pal in Mill Valley. On the way, he notes "I had just come through the little fishing village of Sausalito, and the first thing I said was, 'There must be a lot of Italians in Sausalito’.”

Sausalito’s bohemian roots were tapped in an early-60s Cosmopolitan Travel Report by playwright, author and sometimes travel writer Richard Harrity. Here are some excerpts:

Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, a lovely stretch of land resembling the French Riviera, is an artists' colony that can best be described as Barge Bohemia. It's a pleasant place that looks a little like Monte Carlo, with gaily painted houses hanging on the hillside and a harbor crammed with the strangest flotilla I've ever seen: ferry boats, broken-down barges, houseboats and, here and there, a sleek yacht or two. On the top deck of one old ferry boat anchored near the center of Sausalito were, until October, the offices of Contact Magazine, a literary journal established in 1958.

The favorite saloon of the art set in Sausalito is the no name liar (which has no name) where all the bartenders have college degrees and can hold their own with the customers in heated discussions about everything from neo-Dadaism to the sudden exit of existentialism. Among other things, this bar serves as the mailing address           for the A.D.D.L... or Anti Digit Dialing League,and was the headquarters for the Save Chessman Committee. Sterling Hayden, the actor, who maintained an office on a boat at Sausalito, and is now working on his first novel, is a frequent visitor, and recently Brendan Behan, the young quiet Irishman, invaded the joint for a week and drank champagne, no less, while he was in San Francisco for the performance of his play, The Hostage.

Every year at the no name there is a Christmas party at which Spike Africa, who was Sterling Hayden’s first mate on the Wanderer and is known as “the president of the Pacific Ocean,” serves split pea soup and tells Christmas stories  The no name is quite a spot and Neil Davis, the owner, welcomes all artists, even the misguided who mistake desire for talent.

Some of the finest artists in America are now at work in the San Francisco area, including Jean Varda, the golden Greek, a great colorist, who paints with the vision of van Gogh.

Varda who recently celebrated his seventieth birthday, with  a fabulous party aboard his boat and studio which, in company with the most gifted men and women of San Francisco, I had the privilege of attending, still has the unpsoiled eyes of a boy, an eager interest in everything, an endless lust for life. When art critics damn his dazzling palette by declaring his colors aren’t true to life, Varda roars with Homeric laughter and replies, “I paint with the colors of paradise.”

Varda is the master of the grand gesture, and when I told him that I was writing about Bohemia on the Bay he arranged a sailing party aboard his little Mediterranean ship. Varda’s crew on the day I sailed with him represented in my opinion, a fine cross section of San Francisco’s art world. Manning Varda’s boat and talking of sealing wax and sailing ships that day were: Evan S. Connell, Jr.; Allen Ginsberg, the Walt Whitman of the New Wasteland; Bill Ryan, the crusading communicator; Henri Lenoir, the poor painter’s art patron; and Sally Stanford, the last of the Red Hot Madames, who now runs a chic supper club in Sausalito, called the Valhalla.

This motley but merry crew belted a big jug of wine during the voyage while arguing about art and laughing at life as Varda steered toward San Francisco, and at the end of our rainbow we found another pot of golden brew at the Vesuvio.

To honor some of Sausalito’s postwar bohemians, The Historical Society has created an  exhibit: "The Sausalito Renaissance and the birth of Mid Century Modern in Sausalito.” On display at the Bay Model Tuesday-Saturday, 9 am - 4 pm until January 18, the

exhibit includes art and information from and about artists, poets and impresarios of the late 1940’s.  And to celebrate that exhibit, the Society is also sponsoring an evening of jazz,

libations, food, and poetry on Friday, December 14. From 6 - 9 p.m. Firehouse Coffee & Tea

at 317 Johnson Street will turn into a beatnik coffee house for the evening.

Admission is $40, and seating is limited. Tickets and information are available at or at

New Sausalito History Book

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

Mitch Powers is an expert kayaker and a prolific author. His most recent book, Sausalito History & Guide, grew out of an earlier edition titled A Brief History Of Sausalito and Richardson's Bay,  which was reviewed in this space back in 2012. The new, expanded book is an even better resource for anyone interested in learning about Sausalito and its surroundings, including Tiburon, Belvedere and Angel Island.

Mitch Powers covers the waterfront ─ and more ─ in his new book.

Mitch Powers covers the waterfront ─ and more ─ in his new book.

The latest edition is much longer (130 versus 85 pages) with new content and photographs. 

Chapters include an overview of Sausalito’s Human History, the Natural History of Richardson's Bay, Floating Homes and Anchor Outs, and self-guided tours. Plus, it offers short histories of nearby towns, stories related to Sausalito and Richardson's Bay, and a resource section.

The self-guided tours will help you learn about this fascinating town and are divided into south, central and north Sausalito which you can enjoy by foot, bike or car. 

For example, the South Sausalito Tour starts at the heart of downtown (Princess and Bridgeway). Here the author takes you up Princess Street (new to this edition) and with photos and short descriptions introduces you to many of the beautiful historic buildings (late 1800s) on this street. Along with the self-guided tours and enhanced content, the author includes maps to help you orient yourself and get around town. 

Finally, there is a new section on Fort Baker and the Marin Headlands including a tour along with maps. All in all, this latest edition, available at the Sausalito Visitor Center (Ice House) and Book Passage, is an entertaining and informative read about Sausalito and its neighbors.


Giving Thanks in Troubled Times

By A.B. Sidebotham and Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

Alfred Bryce Sidebotham was the pastor of the local Presbyterian church when he wrote this guest editorial for the Sausalito News on November 13, 1941:

After enlisting, Reverend Sidebotham posed with his wife and daughter in front of the Sausalito Presbyterian Church. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAUSALITO HISTORICAL SOCIETY

After enlisting, Reverend Sidebotham posed with his wife and daughter in front of the Sausalito Presbyterian Church.

Most of us think that the custom of observing a day of Thanksgiving is strictly an American movement. However, such a day is much older than the known history of our new world. We find in searching the records that Egypt had periods of thanksgiving to their gods centuries ago. The same thing is true of the ancient Greeks and Romans. As we read the Holy Scriptures of the Jews, we find that they had many days of thanksgiving to God for his mercies and kindnesses. Since those early times, people have often set aside days of thanksgiving. European history is full of days set aside for such a purpose. One day stands out for its probable effect upon our land. October 3 was set aside by the Hollanders as a special day of thanks to commemorate the time in 1575 when the Spaniards lifted the siege of Leyden. As every school boy knows, our New England ancestors spent some time in Holland before forming a company to charter a boat and set sail for the new world in 1620. In our own land, three days stand out as great Thanksgiving Days in our history. The first was in 1621, when our New England ancestors after a year of extreme difficulties and hardships, were desirous of thanking God. The second great day was November 26, 1789 when our first President proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day. Such days were celebrated often after that, but it was not until another great day came that the idea became an institution in our national life. In 1863, another President called for a day of Thanksgiving. Lincoln called for this day even though there were many northern and southern men who would never return to their homes. He proclaimed such a day even though many of the men who did return home would be invalids the rest of their days. It was right after his famous Gettysburg address in which he proclaimed: “It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this,” in reference to the dedication of the battlefield. In his Thanksgiving proclamation he wrote: “It has seemed to me fit and proper” to do this. Every year since “It has seemed fit and proper” to our Presidents to continue the custom. As we look at this year’s Thanksgiving, we find the world to be once more laying waste its cities and slaughtering its manpower. Can we thank God? Yes, we most certainly can—for an awakened conscience which decries this needless sacrifice of innocent men, women and children; for a conscience that says that there shall be no difference between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, those of high or low estate . . . that the rights of our civilization shall be open to all; for a conscience that says that no amount of material goods shall be worth as much as one single human being. Yes, we can thank God that we are awakened to feel that the present day barbarities and barbarians who lust for power must be curbed. Of course, contrition for our own part in the world's wrongs is a part of our mood at this time as must also be a determination to dedicate ourselves to the sacrifices necessary to keep our world from again reaching its present state of gross immorality.

Less than three weeks after this essay was published, the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the U.S. into the very barbarities the pastor alluded to. In 1943, Reverend Sidebotham joined the army and became a chaplain.

Post-War Renaissance in Sausalito

By Jim Scriba and Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society
Richard Diebenkorn became the most famous of the “Sausalito 6” school of artists.  Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Richard Diebenkorn became the most famous of the “Sausalito 6” school of artists.

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

When World War II ended in 1945, servicemen and women came home and sought to create lives with renewed purpose. Among them aspiring artists, writers and musicians began enrolling in schools like the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Academy of Art). As long time Historical Society member Liz Robinson has pointed out, “Men, especially, were out to fulfill some of their dreams and regain lost time.” The G.I. Bill gave folks the freedom to mold those dreams.

When Marinship closed abruptly in 1946, the Bechtel Corp. turned the property over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which needed only a portion of the sprawling facility for their operations. The rest of Marinship was sold off piecemeal by sealed bid auctions. Waterfront fixture Don Arques was buying up and anchoring scrapped work boats, barges and ferries and inviting artists to establish rent-free studios and living spaces. Sausalito was primed to host this post-war "avant garde" and play a key role in influencing the San Francisco Renaissance.

In 1947 painter Frank Lobdell moved to Sausalito and began attending the California School of Fine Arts on the G.I. Bill. Artists Jean Varda and Gordon Onslow Ford bought the ferryboat Vallejo and set up a floating studio. Scientist Bern Porter left Princeton University when he became aware that his research was being used on the atomic bomb and moved to Sausalito where he opened two art galleries, the Schillerhaus on 603 Main Street in Hurricane Gulch, and the Contemporary Gallery downtown. Richard Diebenkorn began a teaching position at the CSFA that lasted until 1950.

The following year, Victor Di Suvero bought and ran the Contemporary Gallery to further its mission to host the work of local Sausalito artists. Six artists attending the California School of Fine Arts, Diebenkorn, Walter Kuhlman, James Budd Dixon, John Hultberg, Frank Lobdell, and George Stillman created a portfolio titled “Drawings,” now considered an important milestone in the Abstract Expressionism movement. These Modernists became known as "The Sausalito Six," because they lived and worked in Sausalito studios. German Jewish refugee Gerd Stern moved to the Bay Area and took a job at radio station KPFA in Berkeley where he launched a poetry show and recorded notables including Allen Ginsberg, Harry Partch, Henry Jacobs, and Michael McClure. Stern was well connected with the art movement in Sausalito and would eventually buy a barge and move here. Peggy Tolk-Watkins opened “The Tin Angel'’ (now Scoma’s) on Sausalito's waterfront, which soon became a gathering place for noted jazz musicians and folk singers. Edith and Brian Heath founded Heath Ceramics in Sausalito.

On Sunday, September 11, 1949 an event took place to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. This all-media, open air Art Show, with exhibits by most of the current Sausalito artists, is considered the forerunner of the Sausalito Art Festival. In late September, the Regatta Days event included sailboat races, shell, obstacle and row boat races, and an illuminated boat contest. On shore it included the elaborately-costumed Centennial pageant, “The Golden Fleece,” and no less than 15 art and craft shows that included 100 artists. In November, James Broughton’s film “Mother's Day'' with music by Howard Brubeck won honorable mention at the International Film Festival in Belgium. By 1949, Heath Ceramics was producing 100,000 pieces a year, and providing day jobs for many community artists.

To celebrate Sausalito’s artistic emergence, the Sausalito Historical Society presents the exhibit:

"The Sausalito Renaissance and the Birth of Mid Century Modern in Sausalito.” The exhibit will include art and information from and about: James Broughton, Peggy Tolk-Watkins, James Budd Dixon,

John Hultberg, Walter Kuhlman, Enid Foster, Blanche Phillips, Harry Partch, Jean Varda, Mel Fowler, Loyola Fourtane and other creative luminaries.  It opens November 20 in the gallery of the Bay Model.  An opening reception will be held on Saturday, December 1 from 1-3 p.m.

Sausalito Celebrates the End of WWI

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

When the first World War ended 100 years ago, the long-awaited armistice was cause for celebrations all over the world, including Sausalito.  Here’s an account from the November 16 Sausalito News:


Early Monday morning word was received that Germany had signed the armistice prepared by the allies and that hostilities would cease at 11 a. m. It was and is the greatest day in the history of the world and was a day of genuine thanksgiving among all nations. Governor Stephens proclaimed it a legal holiday. All over there were celebrations and felicitations. Shortly after midnight the whistles in San Francisco were heard announcing the good news and In a few seconds the people of each community were pressing into service all sorts of devices for making noises.

Sausalito had several parades, starting in at 4 o'clock In the morning and at Intervals up to midnight. An automobile parade was held in the afternoon. C. R. Ellis was the grand marshal of the parade, P. G. Sanborn, assistant.

The disturber of the universe, the Kaiser, was in his casket, trailing behind Dave Langsom's junk auto piled with old tin cans. The mall boys took great delight in striking the Kaiser's coffin, while Kewpie Akers tolled a bell for the Kaiser.

In the evening a mass meeting and street dance was held at the Plaza, two thousand people being present. Mayor Coughlin as master of ceremonies expressed his great appreciation of the accomplishments of the Allies with the aid of the United States and stated that thirty-five boys from Sausalito, including himself, were in San Rafael that afternoon ready to leave for Kelly Field. Texas, when Frank Vanderbilt, secretary of the Local Board, announced that the entrainment order had been revoked and for them to return to their homes.

American troops charging through barbed wire “in pursuit of the fleeing Huns”  Photo from Sausalito News

American troops charging through barbed wire “in pursuit of the fleeing Huns”

Photo from Sausalito News

The Home Defense Corps band under the leadership of Frank Lunna, played patriotic airs. Town Trustee L. C. Pistolesi paid a high compliment to the British, French, Belgians, Italians, Portuguese, Japanese. Serbians, Greeks and the United States for their gallant and winning fight for democracy. The British, through clearing the seas of German war vessels, prevented the Germans from destroying a large number of vessels at the beginning of the war, prevented the Germans from being a dangerous menace on all seas and made It possible for the United States to ship war material and troops to the aid of the allies. He said that although an armistice had been signed and the war was over the war work of the Y. M. C. A., the Knights of Columbus, Salvation Army and similar organizations would not be over for some time and it was up to everyone to subscribe liberally to the War Work Fund campaign now on. Subscribe as much as they can. He was frequently Interrupted by applause. At the conclusion of his remarks the public were given an opportunity of driving a nail in the Kaiser's coffin on payment of at least twenty-five cents. $53.50 was derived through nail driving and contributions and was turned over to the War Work Fund.

The Kaiser was cremated at the foot of Princess street.

Back issues of the Sausalito News can be viewed by going to the Historical Society website ( and clicking on Links in the left-hand column of the home page.  Once there, you can also peruse other historical California journals, including Marinscope from 2010 to now.

When the Ice House Became a Hot Topic

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society
Ice House moving in the dead of night. Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Ice House moving in the dead of night.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

We’ve written before about how former Sausalito Historical Society President Phil Frank raised funds for the relocation of the Ice House and converted it into a downtown Museum and Visitor Center in 1999, after the building’s owner, architect Michael Rex, had sold it to the city for one dollar. As was his wont, Phil turned the move into a party, hauling the structure downtown from Caledonia Street late at night, and following up with a reception for the community.

But all was not smooth sailing. The move stirred up a storm of conflicting claims on the quaint white and blue structure.

As this newspaper put it in March 1998: “For more than a year, the question was, 'Where do we put the Ice House?’ The next question may be ‘Whose Ice House is it anyway?’"

At that time the city faced potential litigation from Al Schariat, the property owner of 333/339 Caledonia Street, the former site of the Ice House.  According to a letter to the city from Paradise Properties, Inc., which managed the property, Schariat claimed that the Ice House rightfully belonged to him. Shariat agreed to waive his supposed right to the building in exchange for a zoning change that would allow him to build a structure on the Caledonia St. property that would substantially replicate the Ice House.

His hope was to get around a Planning Commission request that, rather than simply replacing the Ice House, Schariat develop a master plan for the entire property, perhaps with a two-story building.

Approximately three weeks later, the city received a letter from Jack Schwartz of Paradise Properties' Legal Accounting department. Schwartz wrote that the city had lost its right to the building after Dec 31, 1998, based on a lease extension between the city and the management company. According to the lease extension, if the city failed to move the building by year end, ownership would transfer to the property owner.

After receiving the letter, city staff and Paradise Properties agreed that the city could move the Ice House so long as the City Council approved the zoning change. The Council agreed to discuss the issue in closed session.

Even the new location was a matter of dispute.  One group proposed locating it to Dunphy Park where it would serve as s clubhouse for children. A vocal proponent of that plan was Richard Aspen, then a candidate for City Council. Aspen, the Birdman of Bridgeway, now entertains downtown strollers with his trained cockatoo.

In the fall of 1998, the City Council overrode its own Planning Commission, and voted unanimously to put the structure in its present location at Bridgeway and Bay.  The Sausalito Historical Society leased the Ice House for $1 per year and agreed to pay all expenses related to moving the building and preparing the building for use at its new site.

Nearly 20 years later, the Ice House is still there greeting over 30,000 visitors a year who stop by to see the collection of historic exhibits and to browse the inventory of history related books, cards and other items available for purchase.

Sterling Hayden: One of Sausalito’s Own

By Steefenie Wicks, Sausalito Historical Society
Sterling Hayden, from the archives of the Sausalito Historical Society

Sterling Hayden, from the archives of the Sausalito Historical Society

“With his back to the wind he plows up the dock and reaching the land turns left.  He corners the squat brown bank, crosses the Bridgeway Road, turns right past the Tides bookstore, and steps from the storm to the warmth of the No Name Bar.  He buys a drink and turns to a ship lost in the night and drinks to a life that was.  He turns to stare at a face in the back-bar mirror: a vague face with bleak and querulous eyes.  The eyes lock and he drinks to himself alone. Vale! Wanderer.”

The above is from the last page of Sterling Hayden’s epic book “Wanderer.”  Hayden only wrote two books in his lifetime, his autobiography “Wanderer” and a novel titled “The Voyage.” Both were written by a man who had a love for going to sea, tackling the adventure that it brings while calming his over-powering nature.

I never met Hayden but have read about his Sausalito adventures from people who befriended this 6’5’’ good-looking blond man who had the brains to live by the luck he was able to pursue.

In my own pursuit to find out about him I ran across two interviews in the Historical Society archives by Sausalito writer Annie Sutter and editor June A. Osterberg.  Sutter became friends with Hayden during her interviews with him in April of 1982. He would later rent an apartment in a house she owned; this is where he would spend the last few years of his life.

Sutter writes, “Hayden is living in Sausalito once again, writing his third book, an autobiography sequel to ‘Wanderer,’ [named for the schooner] he left in 1960.  What has happened since then?  Two books, some films life on a barge in Paris, ‘a lot of booze, sadness, a lot of tears, a lot of booze; but I had some marvelous times’.”

Sutter did ask him how he got in to films; she writes his answer was as intriguing as his broad smile.  “I just fell in off a ship,” he said.  “I had my picture in the newspaper when I was on the Gertrude Thebaud.  It said, ‘Gloucester fisherman like movie idol.’ I was so embarrassed. All of the boys were holding up the paper teasing me but then the picture somehow found its way to Paramount.  A few months later I was working on the docks in Brooklyn as a longshoreman; when I came back to the rooming house where I stayed there was a message from Paramount.”  The message was from Ed Griffith who worked for the studio.  They met at his elegant hotel but when Hayden shook his hand Griffith remarked on how coarse his hands were.  Hayden then took out a blue tip match from his pocket struck it across his palm to light his cigarette.  A week later he was given a screen test, and suddenly he was in the movies.

Hayden was what one could call a man’s man but also a ladies man.  The other woman in his life to work with him was editor June A. Osterberg.

Her sister, who was a neighbor of Hayden’s when the family lived on Belvedere, introduced Osterberg, to Hayden; it was during this time that Hayden had a small studio in Tiburon.  She was asked if she would help him pare his story down and turn it into a real worthy book, all for $2 dollars an hour. She said yes. The book was “Wanderer” and the year was spring of 1961.

Hayden and Osterberg had a rare partnership that required her to commute every day in her 1955 Triumph TR2 sports car from San Francisco to quite open Marin countryside.

Hayden insisted on keeping fairly conventional working hours but Osterberg remembers the lunchtimes when they would go to Tiburon Tommie’s to eat Polynesian food.  She goes on to say that he wrote in long hand, he was coherent in his thinking along with being articulate.

He was excellent company, though he was nobody’s idea of a peaceful person.  Reliving his past in order to describe it for the book was a harrowing experience.  From his stormy childhood to his working with the Office of Strategic Services (the WWII forerunner of the CIA) in Yugoslavia; playing silly roles in films; joining the Communist Party and then renouncing it; testifying before the House Un-American Committee and implicating some of his friends. And, lastly, the bitter fight to keep his children: He defied a court order and sailed the Wanderer to Tahiti with his four kids.

All these experiences seemed to make him who he was.

Hayden parted ways with Osterberg when he took the family -- at that time they relocated back to Nantucket.  However, she was with him when the book came out in the fall of 1963.  “Wanderer” was launched on board the square-rigger Balclutha at Pier 43 in San Francisco.  With rum and chowder being served, all had a good time.
In closing there is so much one could say about Sterling Hayden, his adventures at sea, his adventures in Hollywood. These are stories that others have written about this this man who referred to himself as the “Loquacious Bastard.”

Annie Sutter ended her piece with this statement: “And now he’s back in Sausalito, scribbling in the big journals, beginning the story of the twenty-three years since Wanderer returned from Tahiti. We can look forward to tales of the barge, the writing of Voyage, “A lot of tears, a lot of sadness with some wonderful times to remember.” As Hayden ended the conversation he said,” It starts right here in the first chapter called ‘Down and Out on Sunshine Avenue’.”

Please join the Sausalito Library and the Sausalito Historical Society on Friday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m. to celebrate this unique Sausalito character with film clips, readings, and reminiscences from some of the local people who knew him. This program will be held inside the Sausalito Library.

The Sausalito That Never Was

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

The history of our town is sprinkled with dreams and schemes that never quite became reality. A library on the Bay? A BART Station on the north side of Sausalito?  These and other ill-conceived ideas are on display in the Historical Society’s new exhibit, “The Sausalito That Never Was.”

A Chamber of Commerce mixer marked the opening of the new exhibit.  Photo by Herman Privette

A Chamber of Commerce mixer marked the opening of the new exhibit.

Photo by Herman Privette

The exhibit was inspired by a file of half-baked notions compiled by Jack Tracy, founder of the Historical Society. Years ago, Tracy turned that file over to Jerry Taylor, the current SHS president. The file sat around gathering dust for decades, until Jerry and Ann Heurlin were inspired to capture some of the more noteworthy non-starters in an exhibit. 

Some of the exhibit’s highlights include:

HEARST CASTLE was being built in Sausalito before the infamous newspaperman butted heads with the town council, and eventually pulled up stakes for San Simeon. The exhibit features Julia Morgan's drawing of the facade facing the water. 

MINIING TOWN? Sausalito was already known as a source for fresh water and lumber when manganese deposits were discovered above Main Street in the late 1870s. Several mining tunnels were dug between present-day Prospect Avenue and Sausalito Boulevard, but the tunnels kept filling with water from the area’s many springs, and by 1893, the mines were abandoned.

FREEWAYS AND BRIDGES features drawings of freeways proposed between Alexander Avenue and Bridgeway from the 1930s and the 1950s. Imagine how any of these plans would have changed Sausalito forever.

MARINCELLO was a massive development planned for the former Fort Cronkite area, just west of Sausalito. The fight to prevent it, described in the film “Rebels with a Cause,” gave birth to the environmental movement in Marin. The exhibit includes artists’ renditions and maps of the proposed 30,000-resident development.

DOWNTOWN DREAMING examines past proposals for downtown remakes in the 60s and 70s, including using the ferryboat Berkeley as City Hall.

PLAYLAND ON THE BAY? Joseph Strauss, the genius credited with the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, had some non-genius moments as well. In 1935 he proposed filling in the northern half of Richardson’s Bay to create an amusement park, coliseum and airfield in what he considered an “almost worthless” waterway.  You can also read about how Marine World was originally to be located in Mill Valley before it was built in Redwood City and then moved to Vallejo.

After extensive research into these and other failed fantasies, the exhibit was hung by SHS Board Members James Scriba and Barbara Rycersky.  It is open to the public Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 1 PM on the top floor of City Hall.



A Chamber of Commerce mixer marked the opening of the new exhibit.

Photo by Herman Privette

Mixer HP 9 18.jpg

Mr. Sausalito, Jerry Taylor

By Steefenie Wicks, Sausalito Historical Society

Jerry Taylor at the new Historical Society exhibit: the  " Sausalito That Never Was"  Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Jerry Taylor at the new Historical Society exhibit: the "Sausalito That Never Was"

Photo by Steefenie Wicks

It’s safe to call Jerry Taylor Mr. Sausalito, not only because he has lived here all of his life but because he also still resides in the family home since 1949.

That was when his family purchased the home on 3rd Street in Old Town. Taylor has been part of many of Sausalito’s civic organizations and is known for his appearances in costume at the Sausalito Art Festival. When needed he will dress up in a turkey costume for the Lion’s Club to help sell roasted turkey legs or in a toga to help sell Caesar salads for the Sausalito Nursery School.  He has worked with the Sausalito Historical Society’s schools’ programs as a turn of the century train conductor.  Many a time he has been approached by a young student outside of the school who wants to see the large watch he carries when he plays the conductor.  He considers himself an entertainer at heart.

“I’m always being recognized even when I’m not in costume”, he says, “but the best was one day when I was driving down Lombard in the City with my daughter; this car pulled next to us the two teenage boys on the back seat one yelled out,’Hey there’s Caesar’ to which the other replied, no that’s not it’s the ‘Turkey.’  Now that’s recognition.”

Taylor is open to telling about his childhood in Sausalito where he went to school with the same kids that he played little league baseball with. “When I go to speak at a City Council meeting,” he says, “I’m reminded of how that room was my 4th grade school room; it’s so familiar that I’m at ease to speak.”  He attended Tam High School, then went on to college at U.C. Berkeley.  He also played the glockenspiel in the Cal Band.  Every 4th of July Parade you can see him conducting the Cal Band as they march down the streets of Sausalito. As a child he figured that all towns were like Sausalito, where everyone knew everyone else.  When he walks downtown today he doesn’t see the T-shirt shops or the tourist shops, instead he still sees the shops that were there when he was a child.  Shops where he brought candy or delivered papers as a paperboy.

When Betsy Stroman’s book “The Art and Life of Jean Varda” was published he was delighted to read it because he knew most of the people in the book.  The families, the children, the places were part of his life as he grew up.

Today Taylor is the president of the Sausalito Historical Society, a group that he feels quite at home with because of his own history in Sausalito.

His latest project with the Historical Society has been working on what’s soon to be called the Ice House Plaza.

Taylor recalls, “I became involved in this project shortly after the death of Bea Siedler, who at that time was president of the Sausalito Foundation. The Ice House was the original Icehouse in Sausalito -- as a child I can remember going with my mother to get ice.  You placed a coin in the slot on the side of the building, then out came a block of ice.  There was a box in my mom’s kitchen where the ice was then placed for cooling purposes.  Eventually, the place became the office of architect Michael Rex, but Rex did not own the property where it sat.  This property was sold, so Rex sold the Icehouse building to the City for one dollar, but it had to be moved.”

He continues, “Around this time the 100th birthday of Sausalito took place.  The Sausalito Foundation had taken over an abandoned building space downtown, and with the help of cartoonist Phil Frank they put together a display of the history of Sausalito.  Soon it became apparent that the display would have to be placed elsewhere because the building had been sold.  Phil Frank came up with the idea of moving the Icehouse downtown to its present location, then placing the historical display inside for residents and tourists to view.  Since then it has become known as the Historical Society’s Visitor Center.”

Taylor goes on to say, “There had always been a plan to expand the area where the Icehouse sits, to make it a plaza where strollers could enjoy the surrounding area.  Plans were drawn up in 2012 but then we had to go through a process of contacting the downtown businesses to see how they perceived this area, then new plans were drawn up to accommodate their wishes.”

Taylor continues with a little background on this area that was once all railroad activity up to 1940. After WWII when the tracks were taken out this area became open space, which is how the Icehouse became placed there.  He goes on to explain how the new plaza will have tiles laid in place that will resemble railroad rails that were once there.

Also, they have contacted San Francisco historian Carl Nolte, to write about the history of the area; his work will be on display in the new Icehouse Plaza.

Taylor is quick to mention that since the death of Phil Frank his wife Susan has stepped forward to fill the void that he left.  Her efforts to raise funds to see this project through are known to all who have participated in getting this project built.

In closing Taylor says that’s what Sausalito has always been about, people coming together for the good of the community. “I’m always proud to tell people, I’m from Sausalito, I’m a Sausalitan.”

USS Sausalito in War and Peace

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

The USS Sausalito, renamed the Imchin, on patrol in Korea.  Photo from Google Images

The USS Sausalito, renamed the Imchin, on patrol in Korea.

Photo from Google Images

The only ship of the United States Navy to be named for our town was USS Sausalito, a Tacoma-class patrol frigate. Ironically, it wasn’t built here at Marinship, but across the Bay in Richmond. However, the management of Richmond’s Kaiser shipyard recognized the ship’s Sausalito roots by inviting Mrs. Richard Shaler, a former president of the Sausalito Woman’s Club, to sponsor her launching in July 1943. As Historical Society founder Jack Tracy wrote in 1975, Mrs. Shaler “was told by a public relations man as she swung the champagne bottle, ‘Don’t miss the ship and hit the admiral.’ As it turned out, she hit the ship neatly as it slid down the ways at Kaiser’s Yard No. 4 at the Richmond shipyard. Apparently, there was no admiral on the scene.”

According to Navy records, after shakedown, Sausalito arrived at Adak, Alaska, in October 1944 for convoy escort duty in the Alaskan Sea Frontier. She performed these duties until she was transferred to the Soviet Navy at Cold Bay, Alaska in Project Hula. Hula was a secret program for the lend-lease of U.S. Navy ships to the Soviet Navy, in anticipation of the Soviet Union joining the war against Japan. After an overhaul at Seattle in June 1945, she returned to Alaska and began training her new Soviet crew. Then she departed for Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the Soviet Union where she patrolled the Soviet Far East.

The Sausalito was decommissioned on August 16, 1945 ─ one day after Japan’s unconditional surrender ended WWII. The Naval History and Heritage Command of Washington, D.C. reports that she was recommissioned and then transferred to Republic of Korea Navy on in September 15, 1950 ─ the same day that General MacArthur launched the Inchon landing.

In November 1950, she departed Yokosuka for Hŭngnam, North Korea. There she performed harbor control duties, which included escorting ships through the mineswept channel, passing instructions to ships entering the harbor, patrolling the entrance against hostile craft and drifting naval mines, and conducting shore bombardment when required. The U.S. Navy awarded the ship (renamed “Imchin”) six battle stars for her Korean War service.

After drydocking and upkeep at Yokosuka, Sausalito departed for the Philippine Islands in October 1951 to patrol against unauthorized fishing vessels in the western Caroline Islands, apprehending one vessel. After spending Christmas 1951 in Subic Bay on Luzon, she made a good-will tour to Saigon, Bangkok, Singapore, and Penang, Federation of Malaya (predecessor of today’s Malaysia). February 1952 found her back in Korean waters, where she resumed escort and patrol duties before returning to Yokosuka for the last time under the United States flag on 31 May 1952.

The decorated patrol frigate was decommissioned on June 9, 1952 and remained in mothballs until she was scrapped in 1973.

Old Town Comes of Age

By Jack Tracy and Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

We’ve recounted the story of how Charles Bott attempted to develop the area around Whaler’s Cove in 1849. In those pre-ferry days, demand for Sausalito real estate was weak, so during the 1850s, Botts began selling portions of his Sausalito holdings.  By

1858 he lost interest in his local real estate venture and moved to Sacramento where he tried his hand in the newspaper business and be­came a judge in Yolo County.

Sausalito Historical Society founder Jack Tracy took up the story in his book Moments in Time.

In Old Saucelito, or "Old Town" as it is now called, little had changed since Charles Botts' initial venture. The Pacific Yacht Club made its debut in 1878. A few homes had been built. A few saloons had come and gone, and Botts, who died in 1884, had long since sold his interests to John Turney and others. The new owners incorporated in 1870 as the Old Saucelito Land & Dry-dock Company and hoped to compete with the Sausalito Land & Ferry Company in New Town. Perhaps as the name implies, they still had plans to establish a drydock facility in the cove as an industrial base to attract business. But business was slow. By the 1880s, Old Town, isolated from the railroad, lay dormant once again.

Sausalito Boulevard high above Old Town c. 1890 with Angel Island in the background.  Photo from Moments in Time.

Sausalito Boulevard high above Old Town c. 1890 with Angel Island in the background.

Photo from Moments in Time.

Then in 1885 two guests registered at the El Monte Hotel set about changing that. Major Orson C. Miller and his wife had moved from San Francisco to Sausalito, like so many others, with a plan in mind.

Miller found title to the moribund lands of the Old Saucelito Land & Drydock Company in the hands of the Savings and Loan Society in San Francisco where it had been for the past three years. Miller approached Horace Davis, president of the Savings and Loan Society, and by September 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. Sausalito Boulevard, with gentle grades suitable for horse-drawn wagons, was the key in reviving interest in Old Town. Central Avenue was also graded as a link between unsold Old Town lots and the lands of the Sausalito Land & 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.

Moments in Time is available at the Ice House, 780 Bridgeway.

Restoring a Varda Mural

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

Varda/ Pardiñas Mosaic in Marinship Park. Photo from

Varda/ Pardiñas Mosaic in Marinship Park.
Photo from

While enjoying the recent Sausalito Art Festival, I paused to hear some music at the Artist Stage.  That’s when I noticed the towering mosaic mural that formed the backdrop of the stage. The mural has been a fixture in Marinship Park since 1988, but time has taken its toll, and the 23-ton structure needs extensive repairs. 

The website describes this massive installation as “a gem of the City's public art collection,” citing its “luminous golden colors and Byzantine and Cubist elements.” 

Mural as it appeared at the main entrance to the Villa Roma Motor Motel   Photo from Echiler Network

Mural as it appeared at the main entrance to the Villa Roma Motor Motel   Photo from Echiler Network

In 1960, Sausalito artist Jean Varda was commissioned to design a mosaic for the new Villa Roma Hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf. Varda (1893-1971) was born in Izmir, Turkey but had close ties to the modernist movement in France and England.  He moved to California in 1940 and spent the war years in Big Sur and Monterey. He moved to San Francisco in 1947 to teach at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). That same year, while wandering around the Arques shipyard, in Sausalito, Varda and another artist came upon an old ferryboat, the Vallejo, which had been towed to the shipyard from Richmond and was scheduled to be torn up and sold for scrap. The two artists bought the old ferryboat and remodeled it. Around 1960, Zen philosopher and writer, Alan Watts moved aboard, and the Vallejo became the epicenter for the burgeoning waterfront art colony. Today the Vallejo remains moored off Gate 5 Road in area now designated as Varda Landing.

Jean Varda in “Uncle Yanco.”  The Boston Globe

Jean Varda in “Uncle Yanco.”  The Boston Globe

Varda was a colorful figure, in his art and in his life.  He was best known for his collages and mosaics, often made from found objects. The Villa Roma mural was actually executed by Alfonso Pardiñas, an artist who shared Varda's interest in integrating mosaics and other decorations into architectural designs.

According to the website of the Sausalito Foundation (, when the hotel was slated to be razed in 1982, several of Varda's Sausalito friends raised funds to move the mosaic here.  "They were going to crunch it and throw it away," said Foundation volunteer Susan Shea. "And the citizens of Sausalito got together and paid the money to have it hauled across the Golden Gate Bridge on a laid on its back for six years, then was raised again." Thanks to Paul Anderson, the Friends of the Sausalito Art Festival, and Sausalito Rotary, the mosaic was restored and permanently installed in the lawn area at the south end of Marinship Park, adjacent to the tennis courts.

Recently the Sausalito Foundation took on the challenge of raising funds to restore the mosaic.  In 2017, the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s Summer of Love, Susan Shea threw a "Varda and the Summer of Love" festival to save this unique piece of public art.  People turned out in 60s dress, and music was played by the Hippie Voices, a band led by Joe Tate, legendary leader of the waterfront pirate band The Redlegs back in Varda’s heyday.

The Sausalito Foundation itself has an intriguing history.  According to an oral history by the late Bea Seidler, longtime president, the Foundation was galvanized into action when a developer bought an underwater tract in Shelter Cove and announced plans to build a high-rise apartment building there.  A small group of citizens began a drive to buy the parcel and stop the development.  One of them was Sally Stanford, whose Valhalla Restaurant would have been in the shadow of the high-rise.  Bea recalled, “They gathered up about $80,000 and were able to make a down payment on this property, and they deeded it to the City and the City eventually put up the rest of the money.”

Today the non-profit Foundation is dedicated to supporting the artistic, cultural and historical heritage of Sausalito.  So, the Varda mural project is a natural fit.

Foundation President Sonja Hanson says that $12,000 has been raised so far, but at least $40,000 is needed to complete the restoration.  If you’d like to help the Foundation reach its goal, you can make a check out to:  Sausalito Foundation, with ‘Varda restoration’ in the memo field, and mail it to: Sausalito Foundation, PO Box 567, Sausalito, CA 94966.

Sausalito in the Mexican-American War

By Joe Novitski and Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

The USS Portsmouth under full sail.  Courtesy photo

The USS Portsmouth under full sail.

Courtesy photo

In 1845, President James K. Polk proposed to purchase Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México from Mexico, and to establish the Rio Grande river as the southern border of United States. After Mexico rejected that offer, the U.S. declared war on May 13, 1846.

It took almost three months for news of the war to reach California. Meanwhile, Mexico had proclaimed that unnaturalized foreigners were no longer permitted to have land in California and were subject to expulsion. American settlers in the Sacramento Valley banded together to meet the threat. Captain John C. Frémont, who was leading a U.S. Army topographical expedition to survey the Great Basin, decided to get into the war instead.  He joined the settlers and offered advice to capture the Northern Headquarters of General Mariano Vallejo at Sonoma. On June 14, the “Osos” – as they called themselves -- took the town of Sonoma at dawn without firing a shot. With General Vallejo's surrender the Osos declared California a Republic and raised the Bear Flag over the plaza.

Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron, had received orders to seize San Francisco Bay and blockade California ports when he was positive that war had begun. Under the command of John B. Montgomery, the sloop-of-war USS Portsmouth was ordered to seize the port of Yerba Buena, the future San Francisco.

Joe Novitski, a resident of Kappas Marina, recently gave a presentation on the Mexican-American war at the Sausalito Yacht Club, in which he described how the Portsmouth first arrived at Sausalito.  Based on entries from the ship’s log, which Joe found at the National Archives, it took Montgomery the “better part of that day with Gate in sight to get into Sausalito at 0720” on June 3.  

Two days later, the Portsmouth sent a launch into Sausalito loaded with “flour, pork iron and other provisions requested by Captain Frémont commanding the U.S. A. Topographical Exploring Expedition at his camp.” For the next few days, “small arms men and marines” went ashore to practice firing at targets in preparation for a landing in Yerba Buena. 

On June 24, according to the log, "Mr. Richardson came aboard as pilot." That would be William Richardson, the founder of Sausalito and one-time port captain of Yerba Buena.  The Portsmouth got underway “under topsails jib and spanker for Yerba Buena anchorage.”

On July 5 Frémont's California Battalion was formed by combining his forces with many of the Bear Flag rebels to occupy Yerba Buena.

For the next several days, various forays were made from the Portsmouth to communicate with Captain Frémont, to protect American citizens, and to retrieve and treat wounded men. On July 9, 1846, 70 sailors and marines landed at Yerba Buena and raised the American flag over the plaza that today is known as Portsmouth Square. Later that day in Sonoma, the Bear Flag was lowered, and the American flag was raised in its place. The Portsmouth remained in San Francisco Bay until November 1846. 

In 1847 the U.S. Army, under the command of Major General Winfield Scott, captured Mexico City. Fort Winfield Scott in the Presidio is named for the general and is now being transformed into a campus for environmental and/or social change. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war and specified the cession of of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México to the United States.  That was just a year before the Gold Rush put California on the fast track to statehood.

Reviving the Sausalito Art Festival

By Nora Sawyer, Sausalito Historical Society

As Art Festival weekend approaches, it’s good to recall that such festivities have been part of Sausalito for more than 60 years.  The history of the festival includes many intriguing stories, such as this one:

Enid Foster, standard bearer of the Sausalito artists’ colony in the 50s.  Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Enid Foster, standard bearer of the Sausalito artists’ colony in the 50s.

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

It was 5 AM on October 15, 1955, more than an hour before sunrise. Beneath the elephant statues in what is now Vina del Mar Plaza, shadows began to gather in the fog. First came a single figure, carrying “masses of bright cellophane furbelows, a number of short bamboo sticks and some long poles dangling paper fuchsias.” Another soon joined, and then another. Finally, at 5:30, the group, bedecked in colorful bows, started to move down Bridgeway, silently waving their bamboo wands and carrying poles between them.

1955 was a year without an Art Festival. For the first time since the Sausalito Art Center had begun sponsoring the festival in 1952, the group was unable to muster enough interest or volunteer power to pull it off. In July, the Center took a “vote of apathy,” cancelling the event.

Sausalito’s artists weren’t so apathetic. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that artist Enid Foster “became so appalled by the dark ages of practicality. . . she took vows to start a renaissance.” With other local artists, she put together an artist’s celebration much smaller and more diffuse than the Festival, with window displays around town showcasing local artists’ work. With all the participating artists serving as judges, one artist would be awarded “a perfect jackpot” of prizes from local merchants, including hosiery, a banana split from the Sausalito Drug Company Fountain, a box of Sausalito earth from a local realtor, and an assortment of cocktails from Sausalito’s bars and taverns.

To kick off the celebration, Foster proposed a parade. Her original idea called for a procession down Bridgeway on September 24th or 25th, led by a band or two. She envisioned painted banners representing the nine muses and lei-bedecked marchers carrying Japanese lanterns. After some consideration, the city council refused to grant a permit, citing the inconvenience of shutting down streets on a busy afternoon and the immutability of bus schedules.

Muralist Val Bleeker came up with a solution. If busy streets made an afternoon parade impossible, why not hold the parade at the “less conspicuous hour” of 5 AM?

After much discussion, the city council agreed, on the condition that the parade not disturb the early morning peace, and parade participants stay on sidewalks as much as possible. The celebration was also moved to mid-October.

And so, on the fog-bound morning of October 15th, a small group of artists, Sausalitans, and reporters assembled.

Foster took the lead as the parade’s grand marshal. Val Bleeker carried a sign reading “Silence! Genius at Work.” Everyone except abstract painter Serge Trubach sported colorful cellophane bows on their jackets. “Does everyone have a wand?” Foster asked. “Let us go forward then."

As they exited the Plaza, the group was joined almost immediately by a couple in red striped nightshirts. One, who identified himself to reporters as Gottleib Schmekinlipp, “wore a cedar bark hat in the Kwakiutl style.” His companion, Carol Potter, accessorized with an Australian helmet and “a cardboard mustache for effect.”

Now the parade commenced in earnest, heading south along Bridgeway. A lone spectator, Bert Pond, stood outside the Glad Hand restaurant (now Scoma’s), waving his wand aloft and softly crying “Yea,” as the revelers passed (“verily,” one marcher responded). Swede Pedersen, “his early morning pallor emphasized by his yellow cellophane bow,” escorted the parade in a fire truck, “a wand in one fist and a cigar in the other.”

Continuing south, the parade passed Sausalito Bait and Tackle Shop, crowded with fishermen. “Revel in that air,” Foster instructed. “It’s like champagne.”

The group narrowly escaped disaster while executing a turn on the municipal pier. With bamboo poles clashing, “bearers were obligated to teeter on the brink of disaster,” almost “dropping over the edge into the bay.”

In another tangle of poles, the group turned around at Richardson Street. The sun was rising, and the Chronicle reports that “fog and water met in a luminous backdrop as they walked along the seawall toward the plaza.”

Two young men “with very red eyes, but a respectable steady gait” joined the parade and were handed wands as the parade returned to the Plaza for photos. Afterwards, the group disbanded and “descended on the Bait Shop for refreshments and appropriate exchanges of congratulations.”

Some weeks later, Enid Foster recounted the parade in verse for the Sausalito News:

So into darkness, one by one,
Go marchers to the lightless park
’Round which the bugle street lamps blaze.

Out of the charcoal dark they come—
Embargo's brood—

Not to avenge
But reconcile the artist with
The populace.



Slow Start for Sausalito

By Jack Tracy and Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

We recently told the story of how William Richardson lost his Sausalito holdings to the Sausalito

Land & Ferry Company in 1869.  The new company ambitiously had a survey made and drew up a map showing future streets and lots available to the public. They named the streets mainly in honor of themselves and quickly staked out prime lots for their villas overlooking Richardson's Bay.

But, as Jack Tracy reported in his book Moments in Time, “The company struggled into the seventies with infusions of cash by the partners, who strained their lines of credit in San Francisco’s financial community. Although a few lots were sold and a few homes were built, people were not flocking to the new Utopia as had been hoped.”  Here are some excerpts from Tracy’s account of the struggles to get the project off the ground:

Samuel Throckmorton tried to foreclose on the Sausalito Land & Ferry Company several times, but each time the determined businessmen successfully evaded the hammer. At one desperate point, in order to raise money, they transferred all the remaining property to Maurice Dore for one dollar. Dore, whose land auction business had prospered, was the only one whose credit was still good. The company held auctions from time to time, trying to drum up enthusiasm for Sausalito lots, but they were competing with cheap land in many new towns around the Bay Area, many with railroad connections. In an effort to lure newcomers with capital, every new town around San Francisco Bay was promising prosperity, healthful climates, rapid growth, and boundless opportunity.

Still the prospects looked good to the men of the Sausalito Land & Ferry Company. Completion of the trans-continental railroad in 1869 injected new vitality into California, and San Francisco had become the financial center of the West. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company had established regular routes to the Orient from San Francisco, and a thriving California grain trade filled the bay with ships from Liverpool and New England.

As grain ships were laid up in Carquinez Strait and Richardson's Bay waiting for the grain to be harvested or for the price to go up in home ports, their masters and crews became enamored of life in California. Many of the earliest settlers in Sausalito were British, who perhaps preferred the quiet country life to that of dynamic, raw San Francisco. Some were sent to represent British companies, some came from the vessels themselves. Others came to seek their fortunes in the legendary land of California. Most of the English residents of Sausalito were "second sons." That is, they came from landed wealthy English families and although they usually had sufficient annual stipends, they had no titles. The eldest son stood to inherit the title and property in England, leaving the other sons and daughters to seek their fortunes elsewhere. The men took positions in banking and brokerage houses, and the women often married American businessmen.

At last on April 12, 1873, an event occurred that seemed to secure Sausalito's future. Amid much enthu­siastic cheering, a groundbreaking ceremony took place in Sausalito, marking the start of construction of the long-promised railroad that would link Sausalito to the lumber empire to the north.

Railroads were the key to growth for towns all over the country, and California was no exception. New towns struggling for existence suddenly prospered when even the thinnest of rail links was established. San Rafael was one of the first to have its own line, the San Rafael and San Quentin Railroad. This single broad-gauge track be­tween the ferry landing at Point San Quentin and the center of San Rafael gave an invigorating boost to local commerce.

The North Pacific Coast Railroad, incorporated in 1871 with the aid of a public bond issue in Marin County, had a grand plan to run a line through Marin connecting the emerging towns, and continuing up the coast to the vast redwood stands along the Russian River in Sonoma and the Gualala River in Mendocino County. The Sausalito Land & Ferry Company directors, sensing that this could be the breakthrough for their town, gave the financially feeble railroad company thirty acres along Sausalito's waterfront as an inducement to make Sausalito the south­ern terminus of the new line.

Because the bond issue called for a southern terminus at Point San Quentin rather than at Sausalito, a legal battle ensued. After considerable legal fireworks, Sausa­lito won out, and in 1873 construction began. One work gang commenced at Tomales, moving south. Another gang worked at Fairfax, and a third started at Strawberry Point where a trestle was constructed across Richardson's Bay to Sausalito. The trestle connected with Alameda Point (later Pine Station), approximately where Nevada Street meets Bridgeway today.

Engine Number One, the  Saucelito,  was a Baldwin eight-wheeler. She is shown here in service with the White Lumber Company c. 1880.   Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Engine Number One, the Saucelito, was a Baldwin eight-wheeler. She is shown here in service with the White Lumber Company c. 1880.

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

North Pacific Coast Locomotive Number One "Sau­celito" was shipped by sea to Tomales in 1874 as work progressed on the rails. Ambition being tempered by the lack of cold cash, it was decided that Tomales would be the northern terminus for the time being. On January 7, 1875, another ceremony marked the passing of the first train over the completed line.

With the railroad came more people, laborers at first, then merchants from many national backgrounds.  Added to the Americans and British were families from Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Portugal, from China, Ireland and Greece – all contributing to the character of Sausalito.

The Pistol Packing President of the Sausalito Woman’s Club

By Dana Whitson and Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

Susan Loosley self-portrait in her bloomers and boots.  Illustration from Sausalito Woman’s Club

Susan Loosley self-portrait in her bloomers and boots.

Illustration from Sausalito Woman’s Club

As Steefenie Wicks wrote in a recent Historical Society column, Susan Sroufe Loosley, the first president of the Sausalito Woman’s Club in 1913, was related to the current president, Alice Merrill.  Alice remembers growing up hearing tales of her ancestor who was known as the pistol-packing president of the Sausalito Woman’s Club.  That reference inspired me to learn a bit more about this colorful character from Sausalito’s past.

Historical Society member Dana Whitson wrote a profile of this remarkable woman in a book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Woman’s Club.  Here are some lightly edited excerpts:

Susan Sroufe was born in Petaluma on October 2, 1853, to parents who had traveled in 1850 to Gold Rush-era California in a covered wagon.

Sroufe studied painting in Paris and Munich and exhibited her work at the Paris Salon to favorable reviews. She became an early California landscape painter of some note. In addition to working with oils and watercolors, she was also a woodcarver.

Susan Sroufe was an independent woman who defied the conventions of the era into which she was born. Although raised in a life of privilege, Susan nonetheless retained the pioneer spirit of her parents. Remarkably, she managed to navigate effortlessly between San Francisco society and the life of a free-spirited adventurer.

Rather than following the typical path of marrying young and settling into a life of domesticity, Susan Sroufe remained single until she was 39. She traveled widely to exotic locales and supported herself as a successful artist.

Sroufe likely met her husband on one of her frequent trips to the Southwest, where she painted

and acquired baskets from various local Indian tribes. John R. Loosley grew up in Phoenix, Arizona Territory. His earliest profession was listed as a bartender, though he later became a member of the Phoenix City Council, served on the Board of Directors for a railroad company and was apparently involved in mining interests as well. The couple bought property at 141 San Carlos Ave. in Sausalito in 1911, constructed their home and moved in by 1912.   

Susan and John Loosley were well entrenched in San Francisco Society. The 1905 Blue Book listed them among the community's elite. In 1893, Susan served as Treasurer of the newly founded Sorosis Club of San Francisco (a member of the California Federation of Women's Clubs) and later rose to the rank of Vice President and then President of that organization. She also served on the board of the Red Cross Society of San Francisco in 1899.

According to Fanny Shoobert [a founder of the Sausalito Woman’s Club, active in Sausalito civic affairs and antigambling movements, according to the Sausalito News], Susan was selected president of the Woman’s Club because, "We had to choose a president who was in no way involved in our bloody battles of the past fighting the poolrooms and saloons, whose smoke had not cleared and traces of which were still faintly red." Susan Loosley, who had recently relocated to Sausalito from San Francisco, fit the bill perfectly.

With a father who worked in the liquor industry and a husband who had at one time worked as a bartender, Susan Loosley did not advocate abstinence from alcohol. In fact, she said in a San Francisco newspaper story that her "ideal man must be temperate in habits, but not necessarily a total abstainer from liquors or tobacco."

Susan Loosley served as the president of the Sausalito Woman's Club from its inception in 1913 until I9l7, at which time she was elected to serve as first Vice President to incoming President Clara Lanagan.

According to author Barbara Lekisch: “As president of the club, and a member of the building committee. Mrs. Loosley assisted in the selection of architect Julia Morgan (1872-1957), the first woman to receive a master’s degree from the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and the first woman to earn an engineering degree from the University of California, in 1894. Miss Morgan designed the redwood-shingled, craftsman-style building. Contractor A. W. Teather was hired to build the clubhouse, which was completed in 1918.”

In June, I923 at the age of 70, Susan submitted her resignation from the Club; her resignation was rejected. Instead, Susan Loosley was voted the first honored member of the Club. She died at her Sausalito home on January 3, 1940. The Board of Directors adjourned their board meeting the next day in her memory.

A lasting legacy of Susan Loosley's presidency was the gift of her oil painting of redwoods to the newly opened Clubhouse in 1918. That painting still hangs in the Club entry today. One of Loosley's watercolor paintings of redwood trees, donated by one of her descendants, hangs in the stair landing in the Clubhouse.

Lions reach out to World War II veterans

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

C.D. Madsen (now 100 years old), Jerry Taylor, and Eddie Madsen unveiled the Honor Roll plaque at the Bay Model.  Photo by Larry Clinton

C.D. Madsen (now 100 years old), Jerry Taylor, and Eddie Madsen unveiled the Honor Roll plaque at the Bay Model.

Photo by Larry Clinton

In May 2016, Historical Society President Jerry Taylor reported that the Sausalito Lions Club had recreated an Honor Roll of servicemen and women from World War II.  A plaque bearing 474 names was formally unveiled and re-dedicated to those Sausalito heroes in a ceremony at the Bay Model on May 21 of that year. Participants even sought to recreate the original dedication ceremony, except, as Jerry noted, with shorter speeches. Keeping the “flavor” of the war years, coffee and doughnuts were served.

Guests of honor at the Bay Model ceremony were C. D. Madsen, a WWII vet and a Lion for over sixty years, along with his slightly younger cousin, Eddie. The new plaque now hangs in the Bay Model’s Marinship exhibit.

However, now there’s more work to be done. San Rafael Lion Bonnie Page visited the Marinship exhibit a few months ago and scoured the WWII Honor Roll but missed both her father, Staff Sergeant Thomas Page (who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart) and her uncle, Major Clifford Page (a US fighter pilot). The two "Page boys" lived on Glen Drive.

That discovery triggered an outreach campaign to Lions members and friends asking for any additional information on others who may have been overlooked. That campaign prompted an email inquiry from Linda Parmelee of Maryland asking about her step father, Dante M, Brusatori, born and raised in Sausalito, who had served in the Pacific. “He was severely injured but survived,” recalled Ms. Parmelee. “He was a prisoner of war in the Philippines for over a year.” Alas, Mr. Brusatori was also missing from the plaque.

Determined not to overlook any other local veterans of WWII, the Lions are planning to update the Honor Roll, and are hoping to hear from anyone else whose family members may have been missed in their earlier compilation.

“We deeply apologize, and we are committed to getting it right by republishing the entire tribute so as to not leave anyone behind,” says Sausalito Lions Treasurer Rick Cabral.  He urges relatives of any Sausalito servicemen and women to visit the Honor Roll at the Bay model to confirm whether those folks have been included on the plaque.  If not, the Lions would like to get any records for missing WWII "native sons or daughters" born and raised in Sausalito. He also suggests that interested parties re-distribute and re-publish this appeal on their own social media networks.

The Lions have set a deadline of September 30 to update the Honor Roll. If you have information or questions about the project, contact or snail mail Sausalito Lions Club, P.O. Box 1049 Sausalito, CA 94966-1049 before the end of September. 

Rick Carnal says: “We pray that those who have gone before and their families will forgive our human error and appreciate your help in this effort to set the record straight in perpetuity.”