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.