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.”


No Smooth Sailing for Capt. Richardson

By Jack Tracy and Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

“William Antonio Richardson is in many ways an elusive figure in Sausalito history,” says Jack Tracy in his book Sausalito Moments in Time.  Most Sausalitans have heard how Richardson received a land grant including present day Sausalito from Presidio Commandante Don Ignacio Martinez, after marrying Martinez’ daughter, Maria Antonio.  However, like most of Sausalito’s history, the full story is a lot more complicated.

Shortly after arriving in San Francisco Bay in 1822 as a 27-year-old first mate on the British whaler Orion, Richardson became a Mexican citizen and was permitted to become a permanent resident of the settlement called Yerba Buena. He also was baptized into the Catholic faith in preparation for citizenship and marriage.  The following excerpts from Tracy’s book tell of Richardson’s stormy course:

 Whaling ships in Sausalito’s protected cove.     Photo from National Maritime Museum of San Francisco

Whaling ships in Sausalito’s protected cove.     Photo from National Maritime Museum of San Francisco

Although Richardson lived near the Presidio during this period, his activities frequently took him to Sausalito’s cove where the excellent spring water and wood supplies provided him with a steady income.  He set his sights on acquiring the Marin headlands, including Sausalito with its springs. Meanwhile, John Reed, a twenty-year-old Irishman, arrived on the scene in 1826 and took an instant liking to Sausalito and the Marin hills.

After building a small cabin at Sausalito's cove, he petitioned Governor Echienda for a land grant that would include Sausalito. His request was denied, but it must have startled Richardson to have another suitor wooing the Mexican governor for the very desirable tract of land.

Many years later Richardson claimed that his 1828 request for the rancho had been granted by Echienda. The formalities of title transfer were never completed, he insisted, because the papers had been lost or mislaid in Mexico City. Whatever the case, Richardson spent the next ten years attempting to gain clear title to the Sausalito grant. In 1829 Richardson abandoned his Sausalito and San Francisco enterprises, and moved with his family to San Gabriel, then the capital of Alta California. There Richardson became close friends with Don Jose Figueroa, who had replaced Echienda as governor. In 1835, the friendship paid off when Figueroa appointed Richardson Captain of the Port of San Francisco and sent him there to establish a pueblo, or civilian settlement.

He built the first permanent civilian residence in Yerba Buena Cove and with his wife and children became literally the first family of San Francisco. Upon his return, he had discovered to his dismay that Figueroa had granted the Marin headlands, including Sausalito, to Jose Antonio Galindo, a well-connected soldier at the Presidio. Nonetheless, Richardson set up shop once again in Sausalito's cove.

 Jose Galindo, meanwhile, was occupied with his other land grant, Rancho Laguna de la Merced. He had never formalized, that is, achieved juridical possession of under Mexican law, his Sausalito grant. Richardson pursued his claim to the land with the new Mexican governor and friend, Juan Bautista Alvarado, but his 1836 petition was again denied. Two years later, Galindo, who had not satisfied conditions for the grant, was accused of murder. A document dated 1838 does indeed name Antonio Galindo as a prisoner, but his fate is unknown. It has been suggested but never substantiated that Richardson had purchased the grant from Galindo.

In any case, on February 11, 1838, Richardson finally achieved his desire; he was given a clear title to the land, some 19,571 acres. Richardson called it El Rancho del Sausalito; it stretched from the Marin headlands at the Golden Gate to what is now Stinson Beach, and included the lucrative Puerto de los Balleneros, or Whaler's Cove, at Sausalito.

It took three more years for Richardson to acquire juridical possession of his lands. He slowly expanded his commercial empire and his influence.

However, time was running out for what Tracy called “the Arcadian way of life in California.”  Falling on hard times, Richardson repeatedly mortgaged his properties to pay his debts, and eventually lost the last of his holdings in 1856 to William Throckmorton, who created a partnership called the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company to develop the property.  Broke and broken, Richardson died soon thereafter.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in San Rafael.

The Sausalito Woman’s Club: New President, Alice Merrill

By Steefenie Wicks, Sausalito Historical Society

They were true pioneers in the 1850’s.  They traveled to California during the Gold Rush era in a covered wagon.  This is the background that Alice Merrill is from.  Her great grandmother’s sister, Susan Sroufe Loosley, would become the first president of the Sausalito Woman’s Club in 1913.  So, it seems only fitting that 105 years later her relative Alice Merrill would become the current president of the Club that is now 100 years old this September.

Born in Sausalito the third daughter of Charles and Virginia Merrill, Alice grew up in the Sausalito Woman’s Club.  She says that one of her first memories was of playing a frog sitting on a tadpole in a stage production starring her sister.  At that time the Club house was used for dance classes, ballet recitals, and any event that brought the community together. She remembers growing up hearing tales of Susan Loosley who was known as the pistol-packing president of the Sausalito Woman’s Club.  Loosley obtained this reputation because of her attraction to guns which for her extended beyond her hunting weapons.  Alice has no guns but is more at home on the water than on dry land.  Her father, Charles Merrill, had a love of the sea.  Alice says that his family raised racehorses.  At this time, they were involved with the family that owned Seabiscuit, the champion horse that would go on to win the Santa Anita Handicap, the highest paying race at that time in the United States.  

Alice said that her father’s close-knit family understood young Charles’s love of the sea, so they built the boy a studio space in the barn over the stable where he could build his first boat when he was 12 years old. One of the reasons that Charles Merrill moved to Sausalito was the water.  Alice remembers that the family always had a boat, for 20 years that would be a Bear boat that was built in Sausalito at the Nunes brother’s boatyard.  All the children in the family were somehow named after the boats that they owned.  The Blue Goose was named for her: the name was taken from the song “Alice In Her Blue Velvet Gown.”

She remembers her grandmother telling tales of Julia Morgan who would later become the architect for the Sausalito Woman’s Club, how she had met Susan Loosely in Paris where they were both attending art school.  Alice says that growing up in Sausalito was always an exciting time because of her experience on the water sailing with her dad. Sausalito at that time was a small town; everyone knew each other, as you got older you were able to work in the local stores or businesses because they liked to hire kids from the area.

One event stays with Alice to this day; the family had a place in Inverness where she would participate in the El Toro races.  “I can remember doing the race early one Saturday morning,” she explained, “then getting in my car, racing back to Sausalito so that I would not be late for my job. During that time brakes were not something that I bothered to use on the roads because I knew then so well.” Boats have always been a big part of her life; currently she lives on a boat here in Sausalito.  She felt that because of their boating experience, her family seemed to move on both sides of Sausalito.  Her mother was a painter, was involved in events that took place at the Woman’s Club while her Dad spent most of his time on the water and the waterfront.  She found that she moved through both communities in a rather effortlessly way.  She says that both her parents were very civic minded and got involved.  This background seems to have served her well because this is one thing that she herself does today: get involved.   Which will play a big part in her time as the new president of the Sausalito Woman’s Club.

 Alice Merrill (left) and retiring Woman’s Club president Molly Squires  Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Alice Merrill (left) and retiring Woman’s Club president Molly Squires  Photo by Steefenie Wicks

The Woman’s Club building, which will be 100 years old in September, “is one of the most special buildings in Sausalito, it should be celebrated,” says Alice.

She notes that the structure was designated Sausalito’s #1 Landmark in 1976.  Then in 1990, the Sausalito Woman’s Club Preservation Society was founded to preserve and protect the historic Julia Morgan-designed Clubhouse and grounds.  In 1993, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Alice feels that since the building has been used for historic events, a celebration should be held that commemorates this wonderful building.  Since her childhood this building has played a big part in her life, with her mother, sisters, friends and neighbors.

She feels that that this is the most beautiful home that many members will have in their lives. This building that has taken care of so many for so many years should be honored, she feels.  Alice states that, “This is a very special place, it should be cared for because it is loved and respected. This building, it’s family.”


By Nora Sawyer, Sausalito Historical Society

On the evening of June 10, a plume of smoke rose above downtown Sausalito. As fire trucks rushed by, sirens blazing, I craned my neck, trying to locate the fire. Of course, my first concern was that everyone affected by the fire escape unharmed. But, as I triangulated the location of the smoke, another worry pushed through: wherever that fire was, it looked like someplace historical.

Fire itself is historical in Sausalito. On July 4th, 1893, fire consumed much of Sausalito’s downtown. The blaze came in the midst of debates surrounding Sausalito’s incorporation. In his book Moments in Time, Sausalito Historical Society founder Jack Tracy notes that while prior to the fire “public opinion held that paid fire departments were an unnecessary burden on taxpayers,” the fire of 1893 “changed many minds concerning the need for firefighting equipment and trained men.” 

 The El Monte Hotel a few years after the fire of 1893. Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

The El Monte Hotel a few years after the fire of 1893.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Most accounts blame the fire on fireworks launched from the roof of El Monte Hotel. A notice published on June 30th promised a variety of volatile-sounding rockets, including a dozen 12-star Roman candles, a half dozen Japanese night shells, a quarter dozen large surprise boxes, and something called a “No. 1 meteoric battery.” As Jack Tracy wrote in a 1976 article for the Marinscope,

Perhaps it was the package labeled “surprise boxes” that started things.  At any rate, the residents of Sausalito were in for quite a surprise that night.

No one was ever sure what happened, but around 9:30 p.m. on July 4th an inferno broke out. George Ginn’s saloon, the Hunter’s Resort, located directly below the grounds of the El Monte Hotel (where the former City Hall building now housing Gene Hiller’s menswear stands today) was engulfed, flames bursting out of doors and windows throughout its upper story.

There was not much wind at the time, but the flames spread northward roughly from Excelsior Lane to the building which today houses the Casa Madrona hotel. Ten buildings were destroyed, and the fire damage totaled $30,000 – quite a sum of money then. Fortunately, no lives were lost.

Still, there were significant losses. The Sausalito News reports that George Ginn lost his dog Budge in the fire, as well as “all his wearing apparel,” and “a valuable Native Son’s badge.” Though he escaped with his cash box, Ginn’s losses were valued at a minimum of $1,000. Jacques Thomas, the barber, lost a building he “had only just finished moving and improving,” valued at $1,800. A headline in July 5th’s San Francisco Call declared: “The Heart of Sausalito Destroyed. LEVELED TO THE WATER."

The San Francisco Examiner reports that as the Tamalpais Hotel went up in flames, “the boiler in the basement exploded, sending the roof 300 feet in the air” in a blast that was heard for miles around. The Sausalito News adds that “The cover of the same was blown in front of the Hotel Sausalito, falling near some ladies.”

Though the Examiner reports no injuries, the Sausalito News notes that John Schnell, a prominent businessman and Sausalito’s first postmaster, “had a narrow escape; he was struck in the leg by a piece of iron from the bursting boiler at the Tamalpais Hotel.”

The Sausalito News reports that “nearly a thousand people witnessed the fire.” Many of those present joined in to battle the blaze and keep it from spreading.

The town's people with the voluntary help of transient visitors, yachtsmen and others. . . formed a cordon along the edge of the bluff and fought the fiend as fiends would fight a fiend whenever he sought to affect a lodgement on the summit of the hill.

Finally, despite the noise, heat, and smoke, “pluck, endurance and intelligence won the day, and beat the enemy back.”

There are many who deserve praise for their laudable aid but the NEWS has not their names at this writing. A man had one of his wrists badly cut by broken glass. . . It was an exciting night and one that will be called up, of no protection against fire for a lack of water and a fire engine.

In the same issue, another column begins with an exhortation: “Incorporation! Incorporation! Fire Department needed.” And Sausalito’s citizens agreed; when it came time to vote on August 26th, incorporation passed.

The smoke I spotted on that June evening 125 years later originated just south of 1893’s conflagration, in an alley next to a 126-year-old building on Princess St. As in 1893, citizens rushed to help, and this time well-equipped fire crews were not far behind. Soon, the fire was out. The building, old enough to have witnessed the fire that destroyed much of downtown, survived.

Revisiting Poet’s Corner

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

A stroll past the intersection of Harrison and Bulkley will take you to one of Sausalito’s most venerable but often overlooked landmarks: Poet’s Corner.  Tucked into an overgrown hillside, you’ll find a stone grotto with a granite bench inscribed to memorialize Sausalito poet and playwright Daniel O’Connell.

O'Connell (1848-1899), who lived with his wife and seven children at Laurel Lodge in Sausalito's Wildwood Glen, was part of a literary circle that included Bret Hart, Samuel Clemens, Joaquin Miller, and Jack London. He was a creative spirit, a lively raconteur, and one of the founders of San Francisco's Bohemian Club. His presence was said to make every occasion a "Roman feast."

According to Sausalito historian Jack Tracy, “Legend has it that James W. Coleman, President of the North Pacific Coast Railroad Company, which brought the first rail line into Sausalito in 1875, built this cottage in 1886 and loaned it to O’Connell. The glen in which it was built was later often referred to as ‘O’Connell’s Glen’.”

O'Connell died suddenly at Laurel Lodge from a cold that turned into pneumonia. The bench at Poet’s Corner is inscribed with his final poem, “Chamber of Sleep,” which he finished some ten days prior to his death.  The last lines of the inscription provide a fitting epitaph:

Let shadows of quiet and silence on all my palace fall;

Softly draw my curtains . . . Let the world labor and weep—

My soul is safe environed by the walls of my Chamber of sleep.

William Greer Harrison, O’Connell’s biographer, said, "I knew him as a poet, litterateur, athlete, humorist, and Bohemian; and the more I saw of him, and the better I knew him, the more I loved him. His good humor was inexhaustible, his nature sunny, and his temper exceptionally sweet. But under the jester's garb, beneath the habiliments of humor, there was a nature strong, deep and extremely reflective . . . He had an abundant faith in the providential impulses of his friends, who never failed him. The cares of ordinary life passed him by as one immune."

Over the years, Poet's Corner has suffered from deferred maintenance, and a campaign is now underway to repair and clean the bench, steps, and mosaic tile floor, with its shamrock inlay. The effort is being led by Sausalito Beautiful, a local nonprofit that collaborates with the City of Sausalito to improve Sausalito's public spaces. Though much of the landscape work has been carried out by neighbors at no cost, the cleaning and repair of the hardscape elements requires the services of a qualified restoration specialist.

 Poet’s corner today Photo by Larry Clinton

Poet’s corner today
Photo by Larry Clinton

Friends and neighbors, Sausalito Bohemians and Bartlett Tree Experts have donated to the effort, but more money is needed to complete the restoration, including repair of the stone wall along Bulkley. Donations toward this project may be made payable to Sausalito Beautiful/Poet's Corner and mailed to Sausalito Beautiful, P.O. Box 222, Sausalito, CA 94966. All contributions are tax deductible and will be gratefully acknowledged. Any questions about the project may be directed to  The organization’s long-term goal is to create a Friends of Poet’s Corner organization to provide ongoing care to this hillside monument.

Gate 3

By Steefenie Wicks, Sausalito Historical Society

In Jack Tracy’s book, Sausalito, Moments In Time, he describes Sausalito in the 1950’s as being on the threshold of its “art colony’’ years.  Sausalito would experience an influx of artists in the decade after World War II.  At first some returning service men and women may have come to place themselves as far as possible from the horror of war. They sought the quiet backwaters, as Sausalito was in those days, where natural beauty and serenity abound.  Most of the property that had been used during the war was turned over to the War Assets Administration, whose function was to return it to civilian hands.  Marinship was sold off piecemeal by sealed bid auctions.  Donlon Arques was one of those who bid on the waterfront properties where he would open them as a place for some of the very first waterfront communities of artists, maritime workers, fishermen and others.

In the fall of 1983, the small waterfront enclave that housed Gate 3 on the Sausalito waterfront was a thriving community. It had a ‘Free’ store, a place where people could leave items they no longer needed, then pick up items they might find useful.  You could find anything from clothing to pots and pans, along with canned goods.  There were gardens where apples and peaches grew, along with grape vines that produced wonderful sweet grapes; people would gather them to make jams.  There was even an avocado tree that once a year bore fruit.

Gate 3 at this time housed the only waterfront boat co-op where very talented carpenters and shipwrights lived and worked. In all 42 families lived in this community, both on land and water. All of this was provided by Don Arques, who believed in people living for a reasonable fee on the waterfront.  He rented out the spaces for very little cash ─ at that time the highest rent on the property was $70 a month including studio space.

Gate 3 was a Mecca for over 30 years but that was soon to change.

In the spring of 1984, Rick Moran appeared on the property next door. He called it Marina Plaza; there he built two office buildings along with a new marina.  He took one look at his neighbors and quickly decided that they must all go because they were bringing the value of his property down.  Who had the right to rent to all of those hippies?  He went to the City of Sausalito and brought charges against Donlon Arques, saying that all of these residents at Gate 3 must be evicted, the sooner the better.

 Chris Hardman (in suit) created a “Moranship” poster to demonstrate how Moran wanted to take over Marinship during a protest March in June 1984.            Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Chris Hardman (in suit) created a “Moranship” poster to demonstrate how Moran wanted to take over Marinship during a protest March in June 1984.            Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Having just dealt with what had become known as the Houseboat Wars down at Gate 6, the aspect of more trouble with waterfront residents was not something the City council wanted to experience.

A peaceful solution was sought to accommodate both the residents at Gate 3, along with the new property owner of Marina Plaza. While the City was exploring its options, the residents formed an association and got a lawyer, deciding to fight what they saw as an injustice to their way of life.  They also sought the help of the new waterfront organization called Art Zone.

Art Zone had been formed by a group of concerned citizens who wanted to protect the waterfront, along with its talented residents.  The members of Art Zone were all very well-known, talented individuals: Phil Frank (artist/cartoonist), Chris Tellis (whose family owned Yellow Ferry Harbor), Stewart Brand (publisher/editor of Whole Earth Catalog), Chris Hardman (artist /director Antenna Theater, resident of Gate 3), Mary Crowley (Ocean’s tour director dedicated to keeping our oceans clean), Annette Rose (Chris Hardman’s wife who would become the first waterfront resident to sit on the Sausalito Council, later becoming Mayor).

This group persuaded the then Mayor of Sausalito, Ray Tabor, to organize a meeting between them as representatives for the Gate 3 community with the new owner of Marina Plaza.  Mayor Taber was able to set up this meeting at his home.

Tensions ran high on both sides.  The new owner of Marina Plaza accused the residents of Gate 3 of making his life unbearable because he was being portrayed as some kind of a monster when all he was doing was protecting his investment.  Members of Art Zone kept trying to get him to understand that he was evicting 42 families who had been established at Gate 3 for over 30 years.  Waterfront workers’ lifestyles depended on how cheaply they could live with their families because for many of them their work was seasonal.  These arguments fell on deaf ears and the new owner insisted that they had no right to be there and that they should all be evicted, find some new place to live, but not there.

In the end it was decided that the evictions would move forward, all would be relocated to either Gate 6 or Galilee Harbor. Mayor Tabor gave his word; the meeting came to an end.  But after the new owner of Marina Plaza left, the Mayor expressed his sorrow in how he must take this action, then a sly smile played across his lips. He took the members of Art Zone aside, telling them he felt the new owner was being unreasonable so he in turn would put a stop order on the plans for the Marina’s third building.

So, for more than 30 years that piece of property sat empty.  When something was finally built there, it was Alan Olson’s tall ship project, the Mathew Turner. A fitting ending for the 42 waterfront families of which I was part, that had to be evicted from Gate 3.

Party Like it’s 1914

By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society

As we approach the annual 4th of July festivities, here’s a look back at how Sausalito celebrated in the dawn of the 20th century:

Back in the early 1900s, a group of citizens formed a kind of Political Action Committee called the Booster’s Club. One of the first things they did was to publish a bi-weekly newspaper, The Booster, which spelled out the platform of the club’s selected candidates for town offices:



An honest administration with a square deal to all.

An orderly government, for saloons and every other kind of business

A progressive town, encouraging new industries and increased residents

Government by the people.



A dry town.

Incompetent or slothful employees.

Lax business policies in the town government.

" Boss-rule " government.

Discouraging new enterprises.

Special privileges.

But the Boosters were about more than just politics; they knew how to have a good time, as well.  Here’s a playful announcement of a Street and Water Carnival, commemorating the passage of a $100,000 bond issue to fund street improvements, and the 137th anniversary of the adoption of America’s National Flag on June 14, 1777:

June is the month of roses, sunshine, perspiration, poison oak, and picnics. Though you feel you’re slowly melting and your collar is all awilt and you wish you were in Alaska, cheer up! Soon you can take the moth balls out of your bathing suit─dip your dainty tootsies in the cooling waters of San Francisco Bay─forget your troubles and be young once more. That is, if you come to our little family gathering from June 11th to 14th.  (Write this on your cuff.)

And of course you mustn’t stay away. We’ll miss you greatly, and you’ll miss lots and lots of good things. We want your family too. Hush! We shouldn’t tell you this─it’s a deep secret, but here are a few of the clever episodes that our clever and convivial committee has planned:

Coronation of the King and Queen, Ferris Wheel, Merry-go-round. May-pole dance (by Sausalito Exposition Cup Team). Fire Drill, Games, Passenger-carrying Hydroplane, Illuminations, Parades. Races for the wee folk, races for the big folk, women's fat-and-forty race, with no questions asked. Surprises galore for young and old.

Then comes the grand circus, amusement and vo'dvil, which has Barnum and Bailey's and Keith's combined beaten to a frazzle. The strong men are eating grape-nuts and the bearded lady has quit shaving. There will be a quartet contest with celestial music: but if this is too much, rain checks will be issued.

Dancing! All the devotees of Terpsichore are invited to trip the light fantastic to the accompaniment of a union band that has stayed up nights practising all the catchy tunes; forty-nine dance, all nation's dance, after (a long way after) the Phoenix Exposition dance, hard times dance, moonlight dance.

There's yachting, boating, launching, bathing, swimming, fishing, hiking and picnicking, and perhaps they'll put your picture in the "Sausalito Booster." For the poor bachelors who have no wives to make sandwiches, anything from a crab salad to a chicken dinner can be obtained at reasonable rates at first-class cafes and restaurants. See program for the horrible details, times of trains, etc.


 Miss Madelaine Nilson was one of the contestants for Queen of the Carnival.  Photo from the Sausalito Booster

Miss Madelaine Nilson was one of the contestants for Queen of the Carnival.

Photo from the Sausalito Booster

Without a doubt the Grand Street and Water Carnival which will open June 11th, will be the greatest event ever launched in our city. Never before has so much interest been manifested over any event of this kind. New features have been added to the Programme this week and like all other Carnival Advance Agents, B. Cheffers declares this event will outshine anything similar that has ever happened. The contest for the Queen who will rule the four-day fete promises to be a bitter one.

Even the paper’s rival, the Sausalito New, reported on the success of the Carnival:

“The long looked for Street and Water Carnival has come and gone, with roar of fun, frolic and hilarity still in our ears we assure the Carnival Committee though it now be over it will long be remembered. Through a consensus of the business men we find the Carnival was a business boom for our city, for all lines of business, both directly and indirectly. Everyone had a good time and benefitted financially.”