History of the Almonte District
By Virginia Smith, 1982
The Almonte District as it is today (1982) is an amalgam of Marin Heights, Wisteria, and Tamalpais High School areas. The Almonte (“to the mountain” in Spanish) Train Station, which used to sit on the marsh directly opposite the existing bus stop, was an important transfer point on the Northwestern Pacific Electric Railroad. When coming by ferry from San Francisco and arriving at the Sausalito slip, the traveler to Marin County was offered trains to San Anselmo, San Rafael, Tiburon Peninsula and Mill Valley. Almonte Station was the division point. Trains from this point went their varying directions. Also, to reach Mill Valley from the North, one again changed at Almonte Station.
The property called Wisteria was owned in the early part of the 20th Century by Ernest Jackson. His holdings began just beyond present day Rosemont Avenue from the other side of Dr. Boyd’s Veterinary Hospital, where there still stands a line of cypress trees, and extended to Rising Road. Mr. Jackson had some fondness for cypress trees. He marked off the one quarter acre lots by planting lines of cypress. Many of these trees are still standing and when land is surveyed, stumps of them are often uncovered.
Marin Heights was the hopeful, money-making brainchild of Cleve Damm. Rosemont was originally Rose Avenue named after Mrs. Damm. Northwestern Realty was the company which in typical 1914 San Francisco style divided lots into 25 foot widths. Supposed health promoting waters in the area were dubbed Lithia Springs. One story is told that lots for $5 each were offered as a Chronicle or Examiner newspaper subscription bonus. Loquat trees which are still plentiful in Almonte date from this development. One of the last vestiges of the 1915 World’s Fair Exposition is at the corner of Morningsun and Stadium Avenues. It is a weathered neo-classic urn which leans precariously toward the road. Pairs of these urns were placed at Rosemont and at Stadium by the land developers, no doubt, to impress possible buyers to this classy countryside.
Originally, Marin Heights was the Degnan dairy ranch just above where Graham’s Garage (at the bottom of Rosemont) is now located. The brown shingled house second from the corner of Rosemont and Morningsun on the high side of the road was the Degnan ranch house. The cow barn was on Gibson Avenue near Shoreline. Cows grazed all through this area. One, Molly, a gentle Jersey, spent most of her time in the Graham backyard (now Graham’s garage). She was so content there that Degnan came down to milk her on location, treating the Graham children to fresh, warm milk.
Charley Graham, an enterprising merchant even at about 12, built a roadside stand from old Foster & Kleiser sign discards. He sold peanuts, soft drinks, ice cream and checked the extra clothing of weekend and summer hikers who began their mountain climb from that corner to ascend to Panoramic and Mt. Tamalpais.
George Brisley, in 1948, was the moving force in the construction of the Almonte Clubhouse on land donated by Jackson. Labor and materials were donated by the residents of the area. In 1952, a sanitary district was formed to convert the sewer system from septic tanks. This district is now the Almonte Sanitary District. Thus, it is that a vital transfer point, Almonte, on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, gave its name to a district in the unincorporated area of Mill Valley.