mvhs_review_2011 - Mill Valley Public Library

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established 1937
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the Mill Valley
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Optometry Practice
& Eyewea r Boutique
Historical Society.
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158 Throckmorton Ave . Mill Valley CA 94941
President's Message -----,
Tim Amyx
Betty Goerke
John Leonard
Bob McCul/y
This year's Review focuses on two of Mill Valley's great
treasures. Our library has been around since 1911 and
celebrates its centennial this year. It is likely to be around
forever. The other great treasure covered in this issue is a
Mill Valley business that opened in 1961 and sadly, closed its
doors in 2007. It was our beloved record store, "Village Music".
It's hard to imagine any Mill Valley citizen who has lived here
for even a short period of time who has not been a frequent
visitor to both.
Village Music had a great run during the heyday of vinyl
Rock and Roll music. It was the perfect record store, at the
prefect time, in the perfect setting. Writer Gary Scheuenstuhl
worked for many years alongside Village Music owner John
Goddard. He shares his memories of working with John and
of experiencing the magic of the shop, in addition to his
warm memories of growing up in Mill Valley and being part
of a unique period of our local history.
The annual History Walk will once again take place on the
Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. This year we will focus on
the Nlntellectual Pursuits· of Mill Valley. It will be a short walk
from the Outdoor Art Club, moving up along Lovell Avenue
and some of its side streets. We will share the wondrous
history of the Library, Newspapers, Churches and Schools
of early Mill Valley. The walk will conclude at the library on
Throckmorton and include a rare inside walking tour. Enjoy the
2011 Mill Valley Historical SOCiety Review, and we look forward
to seeing you at the annual HistoryWalkon May 29th.
- Tim Amyx
Vivian Broadway, Barbara Ford, Chuck Oldenburg,
Cul/yn Vaeth, Michael Lipman, Betsey Cut/er,
Catherine Rosekrans, Nancy McQuilkin
Donna Carrillo
Mary Osborn
Suki Hill
Lucretia Little History Room, Mill Valley Public Librory
Jefferson Airplane onstage at the
"MagiC Mountain Music Festivar Mount Tamo/pais
June 1 " 1967 I Photo: Suki Hill
Mill Valley Historical Society
375 Throckmorton Av.enue, Mill Valley, Co. 94941
The Birth
by Paul liberatore
photos by 5uki Hill
It was 1967, the Summer of Love, and fo r one momentou s weekend, Mill Valley was the center of the counter
culture universe. For t wo extraordinary days, June 10 and 11, as many as 20,000 young people converged on
our peaceful. woodsy town for the Fantasy Fair and Magic M ou ntain Music Festival, a seminal rock and roll
concert cum carniva l in the Cushing Mem oria l Amphitheater on the east peak of Mount Tamalpais.
"There have never been so many
people in that amphitheater as at that
moment , ~
wrote Bill Claxton, then a
Tam alpais High School student. .in
a 2010 Marin Independent Journal
history blog edited by Mark Lomas. ul
recall everyone was on their feet the
whole time. I remember lots of stalls
selling beaded necklaces and buttons
(especially anti-Nixon ones)."
The nrstoutdoor rock festiva l in history,
it would foreshad ow Woodstock,
Altamont, and the fam ed Monterey
Pop Festival, which took place a week
later, reducing Magic Mountain to a
footnote in the chronicle of the Sixties.
But what a foo tn ote.
"It was ama;Z:ing, Clnd set me on the
path 10. the S~mmer of love," Barbra
Lose!, who was 15 when she atte nded
the festival. posted on the Marin
history site. "At 58, I still have the sam e
m ind set as I did then. Magic Mountain.
What a trip ... "
The festival was produced by KFRC,
a Top 40 AM station, and the lineup
epitomized the co nfused state of the
music business at t he time, when the
status quo of the three-minute radio
pop song was bei ng threatened by
the emergence of album-oriented
FM stations. It included pop and soul
acts like the Fifth Dimen Sion, Oionne
Warwick and Smokey Robinson &
the Miracles, psychedelic rockers the
Jefferson Airplane; Moby Grape and
13th Floor Elevators, Marin's own Sons
of Champlin and Steve Miller (he lived
by the Golf Clubhouse), L A. country
rockers the Byrd s, who brought along
the great Hugh Masekela to sit in on
trumpet; Jim Morrison and the Doors,
in their first big sh ow, when they were
just starting to get hot with ~ Light My
Fire," and a bunch of grou ps that lasted
about as long as the pot smoke in
the mountain air - Blackburn & Snow,
Kaleidoscope, the Chocolate Watch
Band, the Sparrow, among others.
Ju st as is the practice now for the
annual Mountain Pl ay (the only major
event, by the way, currently allowed in
the Mountain Theatre), ticket holders
were discouraged from driving to the
site. They were ferried from the Marin
Civic Center via Trans-Love-Bus-lines,
the name a take on a lyric from the
Animals' hit "San Francisco Nights."
If you look at the photos of the festival
by photographer Suki Hill and others
that have survived the decades, you
can see that the Love Generation was
still in its embryonic stages.
was a hippie,~ says Dawn
Laurant, curator of the Marin History
Museum's coming Marin Rocks exhibit.
~When you're looking in the crowd,
most of the kids are wearing buttondown shirts and horn rim glasses and
short hair. You see a few long hairs
peppered here and there. but it's not
all hippies yet. And I love that about
this festival. It was just beginning to
crest, before things fully peaked. It was
just the beginning. And I really think
that for Marin, it was the beginning of
The acid by Owsley
made it even more
the hippie invasion, only it wasn't quite
an invasion yet. It was the beginning of
this whole new movement."
It was also the beginning of the
rock concert bUSiness, before the
almost military organization and high
technology that would later turn live
shows into the huge industry we're
familiar with now. Tickets were all of
$2, and the' proceeds, if there were
any, were to go to the Hunters Point
Child Care Center in San Francisco.
A giant inflatable Buddha greeted
concertgoers as they arrived. From
the top rim of the stone amphitheater,
they looked down on two stages,
a main stage and a smaller one for
lesser known bands. The main stage
was decorated with six 14-foot-long,
handmade banners, each one featuring
a different astrological sign. After
the festival, they were inexplicably
thrown away, but were rescued from
the trasH bin by a young concertgoer
named .Mariposa de los Angeles, who
kept them over the years and recently
Marty Balin
of the Jefferson Airplane onstage at
Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Theater,
Sunday, June 11, 1967.
(Opposite page)
The 8yrds perform on June 11, 1967
donated them to the Marin History
Museum. The museum kept one, a
banner with the cancer symbol, for the
Marin Rocks exhibit.
Most rock fans have never heard
of the Magic Mountain Festival,
overshadowed as it has been by
Monterey Pop and the other events
that collectively fell under the rubric
of the Summer of Love. And even
people who were there may not be
aware that it was originally planned for
the weekend before, but was rained
out and rescheduled for the following
weekend. As a consequence, some of
the acts originally booked couldn't
make the new date and had to cancel,
most prominently Aretha Franklin.
different advertised acts. The Marin
History Museum has collected several
of the festival posters, including one
by the celebrated Sixties poster artist
Stanley -Mouse" Miller.
inclement weather
the week before,
the festival grounds
were still wet and
muddy. In the same kind of youthful
abandon that would later be on display
in the muddy antics at Woodstock,
It was just beginning to crest
before things fully peaked.
who was replaced by Dionne Warwick.
That explains why some of the festival
posters have different dates and
festival goers made the most of the
slippery situation. The history museum
has donated footage of young people
sliding joyously down wet hill sides on
sheets of cardboa rd.
By most account s, there was an
electricity in the air that didn't come
exclusively from t he music.
"I was there with my first true love and
it was great; wrote Stephen Miramon
in the Independent Journal history
blog. ~The acid by Owsley (the Grateful
Dead 's famed chemist) made it even
more magical if you can believe t hat.
Time stood stilt and everything was
one. We ended up walking down the
mountain to Mill Valley. The music
played back in my ears that night and
the memories never went away."
There is some dispute over whether
the Hell's Angeles provided security
for the event. The history museum
people seem to think they did, but
other accounts have it that the Angels
escorted the Jefferson Airplane to the
site, but did not act as security guards.
In any case, it was a peaceful weekend
that passed without incident.
~ lt was such a fine little festival,~ a Marin
history blogger, Jeffrey McMeans,
recalled. "I stood on a place that had
the best views of the whole frigging
Bay Area with the biggest grin, thinking
life would never be as fine as it was at
that moment:
2011 Mll[ VALLE
Village Music
There is something about being in a vintage rec:ondl store that is magica l and nostalgic. It evokes a time
before digital music could be stuffed onto a sterile
drive, and our ears could be blown out by the overly
compressed music found on iPods. Music in those
days was more tactile. It almost implored listeners
to engage all their senses to interact with it. Few
can compete with the pleasures of holding a
newly purchased LP in your hands, then cutting the
wrapper and unveiling the cover's artwork
and the magical black disc within.
From the sights -
the walls covered in vintage posters of
concerts long ago, to the smells - the chemical tang of
vinyl, and the stale, earthy, mustiness of the record covers
themselves, the best vintage record stores also engage
the visitor on a tactile and sensual level. Village Music
was just such a place, walls and ceilings covered
with posters, picture discs dangling in the
air on fishing line, and all kinds of music
memorabilia such as the high school
senior yearbook photo of Janis Joplin
and a framed piece of paper bolted to
the wall from t he Carl Perkins Fan Clu b,
autographed by Carl Perkins and all four
of the Beatles.
I bought
Billy Joe
my first
Hits" by
my first 45rpm record there,
Royal 's "Cherry Hill Park'", and
long playing record there, " Big
the Rolling Stones. I'm sure that first
experience of walking into that record store was a deep
influence on my ·eventually opening up my own NMi li
Valley MusicHshop three years ago.
Village Music was origina lly in a location in the Sequoia
Theatre building on Throckmorton Avenue. The
original owner, Sara Wilcox, moved it to its
famous location at 9 E. Blithedale Avenue in
1961. Mill Valley local Jo hn Goddard started
working there when he was 13 years old
and worked there through hig h school at
Marin Catholic. Born in Marin County, John
attended Park School. He left Mill Valley
and the record store to attend a succession
of colleges, ending at San Jose State. Not
wanting to go to Viet Nam. he managed to
flunk out of his draft physical with what was
termed an ~incipient ulcer~. He then dropped out
of school with the intention to work at the Post Office.
At about this same time, Sara Wilcox
had tired of running the store and had
found a buyer -- a retired sheet-music
salesman who needed someone to run
it for him. John agreed to become the
store's manager. While in his car on the
way to sign the final attorney's papers,
the salesman had a heart attack and
passed away before ownership cou ld
be transferred. Sara Wilcox then
suggested that John take over Village
Music and give her a percentage of the
profits until he had paid enough to buy
the business.
Af ter running a department store
record department in San Jose and
then being an Assist ant Manager at
Oiscorama, at the age of 24, John now
found himself t he owner of a record
store. Originally, it had been a typical
mom-and-pop store, wit h records,
saxophone reeds, guitar strings,
tambourines, radios, record players,
guitars, drums and a mish-mash of
other stuff. The first thing he did was
turn it into a proper record store.
From this humble beginning in 1968,
John took over a next-door space ,
and then finally added a third space
to make it the well-known place it
finally became. Village Music grew into
a famous world -wide destination for
record collectors. For a brief time, John
had stores in San Anselmo and Rohnert
Park, before deciding to consolidate
all the stock into one large space. And
what a space it was! Village Music had
Howlin' Wolf's first royalty check on
the wall, as well as Bing Crosby's Army
10 Card, mug shots of Janis Joplin
when she was busted for shoplifting
in Berkeley, and a pencil-written two
page letter t hat Bill ie Holiday had
w ritten to her drug dealer/husband
from prison.
This became an amazing collector's
store run by a collector, and staffed
by other collectors. I was one such
collector by age 12 and joined John
in the store as a staff member in 1979.
I was on hand when John had a work
party to expand into his third space
and I was there when he had his first
major in-store celebrity appearance
featuring Cab Calloway. For John this
was a risky event because he never
received a clearance by Calloway to
use his likeness as Village Music's logo.
But Cab was flanered to be thought
of so highly. The event was a great
success with a line snaking through
the aisles of the store as people
patiently waited to get their albums or
memorabilia signed.
Village Music's reputation continued to
grow, receiving quite a bit of national
press helping to raise Mill Valley's
profile. Major stars shopped there, did
in-store appearances, played private
parties for the store, and became
John's friends. John once commented
that it was wonderful to find a musical
hero who you like as a person as well:
get any better. The first time B.B. King
came into the store, I was showing
some music videos and I knew he was
a l ouis Jordan freak so I put on some
louis Jordan videos. B.B. King is a large
man and half of my inventory is on the
floor. At one point, I turned around
• was thel"e when he hud his first
nmjor in-store celehl"ity appearance
feutllring Cab Calloway.
"One of my favorite musical moments
was going to the W.e. Handy Blues
Awards show in Memphis and going
backstage and having B.B. King
introduce me to Carl Perkins as 'the
owner of the best record store in the
world'. For a music freak, it doesn't
and he was gone. I found him sitting
on the floor over on the aisle with legs
kind of spread out looking through
Oscar Peterson albums with one hand,
waving his arms singing along with
Louis Jordan. I thought, Oh, Jesus,
nobody will believe this! ~
B.B. would then stop in at every tour.
I was personally on hand when he
arrived with his two full-size tour buses
before heading to a hotel, and he
generously let his entourage purchase
records with his account and then
had them wait while he shopped and
bought boxes of blues and jazz records.
It was amusing to see those buses try
to lit in front of the Mill Valley Outdoor
Art Club. On the 25th Anniversary of
the San Francisco 81ues Festival, 8.B.
stayed an extra day to come into the
shop on his birthday and said to John,
UI couldn't think of another place I'd like
to be on my birthday! ~
Carlos Santana was also a good
customer who came into the store on
the day after 8i11 Graham died just to
give John a hug. I saw him quite often
and he always treated me with love
and friendship
George Lucas walked into the store
shortly after ~Star Wars" opened and,
according to John: '" thanked him for
making one of my favorite movies, and
he was ready for the Star Wars rap and
I said 'American Graffiti ', and he said I
have to thank you, , researched the
entire soundtrack out of this store.~
The interior of Village Music wa s a virtual museum of pop music memorabilia
phoro: Sukl Hill
When Mick Jagger was rehearsing for
his first solo tour at Skywalker Ranch,
he stopped in and said, ''I've been told
this is a stop I should make before I
leave town. He bought about $400
worth of mostly Reggae cassettes to
listen to on the flight to Australia.
John also started throwing parties
twice a year for his anniversaries and
Christmas with both famous artists
and those that he had always loved but
were perhaps more obscure. It became
one of the most prestigious tickets
in town. An example from John: NMy
21st anniversary party was an evening
with Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe and
friends. Elvis did a solo set and then
Nick Lowe did a solo set and then Elvis
came out and played a set with James
Burton and Jerry Garcia. Charles Brown
performed, a couple of the Fabulous
Thunderbirds, Sammy Hagar, Bob
Weir, it was a pretty much an endless
nonstop stream of music. It was the
first time Elvis had met Jerry Garcia and
I had the joy of introducing them .~
In the late 80's vinyl records were
being replaced by CDs and the record
companies encouraged their demise
in a number of ways. With rising rents
and a changing music demographic
growing increasingly comfortable with.
illegal downloading and copying, the
music store as the sale outlet for music
purchasing had become a rarity. In the
end John was paying over $11 ,000 a
month in rent (that's a lot of music to
sell!) and was finding less pleasure
in the business. When he started his
store, 80% of sales were local, but by
the end 80% of the business was from
collectors from all over the world.
On September 30th, 2007, John closed
the doors to Village Music. The night
before, we closed the store at 6pm
and then returned at midnight for
more than 24 hours of record selling
madness. It was insanely fun and
crowded with people buying records
and memorabilia, all wanting to have
a piece of this landmark to remember
Seen at Village Music
Photos from Top 10 bottom
(pIlOlOf}rophffl unknown/:
Jimmy Scott I Ruth Brown;
Jerry Garcia I Hank Ballard;
Carlos Santana I Ki m Wiison;
John Goddard I Johnny Otis;
John Goddard I Ry Cooder
it by. I had to buy a few of my favorite
posters off the wall to hang in my own
store so that I could have a piece of
that history on my walls! At the end
of the evening, Austin de lone and
lisa Kindred led everyone in a rousing
version of ~Goodnight Irene" and then
it was all over. It was sad. There were
tears and hugs and the end of an era.
John's passion for music remains one
of the driving forces of his life. He
started going to live shows at the age
of 13. He saw little Richard at Mission
High School in San Franci ~co and a
package show at the Cow Palace with
Fats Domino, Frankie lymon, Clyde
McPhatter, The Everly Brothers, Paul
John and wife, M ichael Cipo llina
wi th Elvi s Costello
Anka, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran .
He sta rted collecting records, and then
began working at Village Music to
augment his collection. When he took
over the store, he started buying and
selling used records to increase his
collection. It was always the music that
came first. That is what I take away
most from my experience of working
there. John would always be able to
talk about music with a Jerry Garcia or
a Ry Cooder. It was from their sha red
musical experience that friendships
would blossom.
After the store dosed, a few ex·
employees took John and his late wife,
Michael Cipollina out to Marin Joe's for
an appreciation dinner. We were there
to reminisce and let John know what
working there meant to all of us. At
the very next table was Carlos Santana
eating dinner by himself. He gave John
a hug and told him how important he
was to the community as someone
who followed his passion. He shook my
hand and told me that whatever I did,
be sure to follow my own passion
as well, because he knew that I was
planning on opening my own store. I
try to take that lesson to heart every day.
He shook m y hand and told me
that wltatever fdid, be su."e to
follow Illy own passion.
An Interview with Austin de Lone
Playing Around:
Live Music in Mill Valley
For dose to 40 years local musician and band leader, Austin de Lone, has
lived in Mill Va lley and p layed in all of its live music venues. We sat down for
a conversation about his persona l history of playi ng live in town and why
Mill ValJey remains such a fert ile place to hear live music.
Photo: Wendy Elkin
Where was your first live performance
in Mill Valley?
That was in a place called The Old Mill
Tavern where Vasco is now. We came
out to Mill Valley in June of72. My band
(Eggs Over Easy) had just recorded our
first album in Tucson. We found a house
in Mill Valley where we lived as a band
right up the street from The Office which
would later become The Sweetwater. Our
local tavern was The Old Mill Tavern. We
spent a lot of time in there (laughs). After
we'd been there for a couple of weeks
they (management) said to us, 'What do
you guys do? Do you guys work'? We
told them we were in a band and had a
record coming out. They didn't believe
us and just laughed and said, 'Playa gig'.
So we set up and started playing gigs.
Eventually Fred Mart in, the Pattersons
and John Nolan started The Sweetwater
because they could see there was this
happening (m usic) thing in town.
How does a particular venue affect
the performance inside?
Well for one, it's the attit ude of the
people who work t here. So there's a vibe
that descends from t he top down. Also
the hospita Iity (read: d rin ks) they offer you
and what kind of PA system they have.
And certainly there's the factor of what
the room actually sounds like. We were a
bar band and a lot of small rooms sound
good as long as you don't play too loud.
Which decade saw the most live music
happening in Mill Valley?
The 70's! A lot of music in t he 80s, but
the 70's were just totally rockin'.
Why was Mill Valley in particular a
magnet for live music in the ' 70s?
In many ways life in Mill Valley was
Simpler back then. The earl y 70's were
an extension of the 60's. There was
still a lot of positive idealism, hope for
changing the world, and the peace/love
movement had yet to be preemptej;! by
corporate marketing departments and
jaded politicians. The legendar9' .Old
Mill Tavern was a veritable melt ing pot
of hippies, rednecks, admen, musicians,
hairdressers and so on. Mill Valley was a
place where you could be yourself. It was
a magical time.
Have you ever played more than one
Mill Valley venue on the same date?
Yes (thinking). I'm sure there were
times when I did an afternoon show
at The Sweetwater, then after, The Old
Mill. Also when we did John Goddard's
closing party we played at the 142
Throckmorton Theatre all day then we
played all night across the street at The
Sweetwater. That was really fun.
Have you ever been tempted to open
your own music venue?
Mildly (grins). When Jeannie Patterson
was getting out ofThe Sweetwater, there
was a guy who owned a dub in the City
who asked me if I would be his part ner
because the owners of The Sweetwater
building were looking for a local to
spea rhead the operation. But it's a hard
job, so I dunnO.It's a hard job ... (trails off)
Has Mill Valley's reaction to live music
changed over the years?
In the history of The Sweetwater is
an interesting barometer of the whole
town. When The Sweetwater first st'arted
everything was fine. Then there were
a long series of meetings with locals
and City ma nagement and they had to
struggle to keep being able to do what
they did. Then of course it became a
legendary club, even internationally. By
t he time the club was looking to move
to a different location downtown 1 was
surprised at how the town still embraced
the idea of always having a great venue.
They love the 142 Throckmorton, and
hopefully The Woods will lift up t hat vibe
of the club scene like The Sweet water.
Why did a lot ofthe 70's musicians
leave Mill Valley?
Well the real estate boom in the late
70's and 80's turned a lot of things around
and the town 't ightened up' after that. It
lost some of its wide open, 'Wild West'
character. A lot of people went, (looks at
watch) 'time's up' and moved on.
Was there a particular musical performance in Mill Valley which was never
recorded that you now wish you had
a recording of?
I saw a show at The Sweetwater once
with just Aaron Neville and a piano player
named Amasa Miller from New Orleans Just the duo. Fantast ic!
How can Mill Valley's live music scene
It's nice that Vasco is doing a music
thing, and the Deuce is doing occasional
music. Hopefully it will improve when The
Woods is finished with its construct ion.
That seems to be a club that people have
adopted and quite enjoy going to.
What's your hope for the future of live
music in Mill Valley?
I hope t hat t here will continue to be a
place for all of the young kids coming up
now to play and perform in. And I think
(considering the 142 Throckmorton and
The Woods) there will be.
- Lippy
Classical Music Fades
In the late 1950's, Homestead Valley's community center,
Brown's I-Iall, was no longer serving [he community very
well. The Improvement Club was havi ng trouble meeting
irs expenses. It was decided (0 prod uce at least one money·
making event every l11onth. As a result. volunteers produ<;ed
lectures, plays, an shows, concerts, dances. etc.
In the winter of 1960/ 1961, the Ho mestead Valley
Improvement Club presented a series of three Candlelight
Concerts of classical music in Brown's Hall. The enthusiasm of
the audiences, plus favorable press reviews, encouraged the music
committee to present mort: such coneens. The Candlelight
Gmccrts cominm.-d to be offered every winter for 20 years.
Rm a coneen series itselr is only parr of the story. Tn 1977,
the first Ca ndlelight Concert was preceded by a Homestead
Christmas Medieval Feast. Forty gaily costumed residents met
at a home on Melrose at 3 PM for a "jo lly hour" of mead,
wassail and aphrodisiacs. This was followed by a procession
to the Community Center for the feast: cock-a-Ieekie soup,
crabbe, suckling pig, vegetables, and pears, all served by
local wenches. Trumpet fanfares announced C".lch course.
Tht: fC'.lSt was t:xcellent preparation for the concert.
The San Francisco Pro-Musica played ancient music on
ancient inst ruments. Subsequent Candlelight Concens in (ile
19n/1978 season featu red (he Dan z.i Woodwind Quintet
from Holland, a recital by clarinetist frealon Bibbins of the
San Francisco Symphony orchestra, and three concerts by the
Bach to Mozart Chamber Players directed by Raymond Dliste.
An outgrowth of the first Candlelight Concert senes had
been a Mozart Fc.~lival in Stoltc Grovc held on the day
before Labor Day in 196 1. It was such a success that annual
Moun Festivals became a tradition in Stolte Grove for over
40 years. TIle 19n Mozart Festival orchestra consisted of2 1
musicians directed by Raymond Dustc. principal oboest of
the San Francisco Symphony. The other musicians were from
the San Francisco Symphony. Oakland Symphony, Marin
Symphony and San Francisco Opera orchestras. There were
four violins, tWO violas. two cellos. a bass, a harpsichord, a
flute, a clarinet, tWO oboes, a bassoon, two Frt:nch horns,
twO rrumpets, and two vocalists, a sop rano and a baritone.
The program consisted of seven pieces compost:d hy Purcell,
Mozart, Handel and Franceschini.
Usually about 400 people would enjoy the music under the
rt:dwoods in Stolte Grove along with good food and beverages.
Afler lhe lurn of the cemury, fewe r than 200 came to the
concerts, which were always held on the day before Labor Day.
Financial losses moumed and the music com mittee decided
that the 2004 concert would be the last one.
Since 2007, the music committee has instead produced three
highly succc...sful annual ja7.-Z fcstivals in the meadow at the
community center on lhe day before Labor Day. Times change,
but live music in Homestead Valley remains a constant.
Chuck Olden berg
Groundbreaking ceremony for new library in Old Mill Park, 1965.
Mill Valley Public Library Celebrates Its Centennial
by Chuck Olden berg
The Mill Valley Public Library has a
distinguished history. In 1900, Mill
Valley began maintaining a small public
reading room in various downtown
buildings. In 1904, Outdoor Art Club
members established a library for
townspeople at their new Clubhouse.
The collect ion came from member and
community donations and eventually
grew to 750 volumes. The colle·etion
and furnishings were then moved to
the Assembly Room of the Firehouse.
In 19D9 the library moved to the
5chlingman Building at Throckmorton
near Madrona.
In 1908, Mill Valley voters approved
the first library bond which authorized
$2500 to purchase a permanent library
site. The vote whether or not to acquire
site was 122 Yes, and 67 No. later that
same year, the Town Trustees passed
Ordinance 138 establishing the Mi ll
Valley Public library and appointed the
first library Board of Trustees. library
enthusiasts applied to the Carnegie
Foundation for $20,000 to finance the
library. In 1909, property taxes were
increased to guarantee S200D/year to
operate the library, as required by the
Carnegie Foundation. The Spenser
property on the corner of lovell and
Madrona at 52 lovell was purchased
for $2500.
Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919) was an
industria list. businessman, entrepreneur
and a major philanthropist. He was born
in Scotland and migrated to the United
States as a child with his parents.
He earned most of his fortune in the
steel industry. In the 1870s, he founded
the Carnegie Steel Company, a step
which cemented his name as one of
the "Captains of Industry~. By the 1890s,
the company was the largest and most
profitable industrial enterprise in the
world. From 1901 forward, public
attention was turned from Carnegiethe
shrewd businessman with the acumen
that enabled him to accumulate such a
fortune, to:Carnegie the public~spirited
In total, Carnegie funded some 3,000
libraries, located in 47 US states, and
seven other English speaking countries.
His method was to build and equip,
but only on condition that the local
authority matched that by providing
the land and a budget for operation
and maintenance.
Mill Valley's Carnegie library opened
on July 22, 1911. Miss lillian Gardner,
youngest daughter of famous Mill
Valley pioneer Jacob Gardner, was
appointed librarian. In 1917 she was
follow ed by Miss Sybil Nye who
reigned over city books for 22 years.
The Carnegie library served Mill Valley
for 5S years.
Efforts to build a larger library began
in 1937. The hillside site of the Carn~gie
library proved inconvenient, and the
building was too small to accommodate
the growth in the number of books.
Overthe next several years, eleven sites
were considered including a branch
library in Park School, R&R garage at
lovell and Corte Madera, the corner
of Miller and Park, the Greyhound
bus depot, the old post office, Dowd's
Storage yard, Mill Valley lumber Yard,
and the tennis courts at Boyle Park.
Bond elections in 1956 and 1958 were
defeated by narrow margins. The site
ultimately selected, the upper part
of Old Mill Park, was first mentioned
in April 1959. In August 1959, the City
Council increased property taxes to
fund a new library building. In 1964,
voters approved a bond issue. By
this time, the Carnegie library was
bursting at the seams with books and
periodicals, and overcrowded with
children and adult users of the library.
In 1966, it was closed when he new
library opened.
In 1970, the Carnegie library was sold
at auction for $16,500. In 1979, it was
sold again, this time for $420,000 to
Joseph leis who remodeled it into a
luxurious 5100 sq. flo private home.
Art exhibitions have been held in the
home on several occasions. In 2000,
the home was opened for the annual
Walk-Into-History. It was sold again in
2010 for about $2.7 million. A portrait
of Andrew Carnegie has been passed
on from owner to owner.
In 1964, over the objection of many
loyal library supporters who opposed
building the library on land in Old
All bl()ck ()nd white photos courtesy of the Lucretia Little History Room, Mill Va lley Public Library
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Serving Mill Valley Residents
& Business Owners Since 1921
Insurance Agency, Inc.
174 E. Blithedale Avenue
PO. Box 459
Mill Valley, CA 94942
415-388-2236 ext. 18 phone
415-388- 1868 fax
David R. Peck, President
[email protected]