Tiburon (Marin County, California)–A Brief History

The thin opening of the Golden Gate at San Francisco Bay was missed by untold numbers of ship captains for hundreds of years.  Historical renditions vary, but it appears that after some Spanish soldiers discovered the San Francisco Bay via an overland route from Monterey, a tiny ship was dispatched to find the access point. 

Upon entering the Bay and seeing a land formation resembling a shark, which also happened to be surrounded by sharks, the peninsula was named Punta del Tiburon (Shark Point).  The boatload of  Spanish soldiers were greeted by Miwok Indians—petroglyph remnants of the tribe can still be found on rock outcroppings. 

After Mexico won freedom from Spain, it took possession of Spain’s California holdings and began to parcel it out to settlers who were Catholic, spoke Spanish, agreed to live on the land, and were loyal to Mexico.  Soon thereafter, an Irishman named John Reed was granted rights to Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley (a large portion), Corte Madera, and Larkspur (up to Corte Madera Creek).  His family held on to the land after the United States was granted rights to California in 1848.

The Tiburon Peninsula rapidly became a hub for rail and ferries and barges.  Timber from Marin helped build San Francisco, especially after the 1906 earthquake.  Also, the Tiburon Peninsula was home to horse, cattle, and dairy farms, packing plants for cod caught in Alaska, explosives manufacturers, kilns, and more.  Although the railways and most remnants of the rail system and Navy use are gone, ferry service is now again a popular way for commuters and tourists to get to San Francisco. 

The Reed landholdings were largely broken up after WWII.  Joseph Eichler built a large tract of homes in Strawberry.  Belveron Gardens also was built.  Such homes sold for $12,500.  Today, construction on the peninsula is limited primarily to remodels, with desirable parcels (and their associated tear down homes) selling for at least $1 million.  Paradise Cay, with its lovely homes with private docks, is the last major landfill development on the peninsula—and is also home to the Tiburon Yacht Club.

Tiburon’s Main Street has suffered two great fires, destroying the majority of shops—one in 1890 and another in 1921 (which started when an alcohol brewing still in an “ice cream” shop blew up during prohibition).  In a related vein, today’s Sam’s Anchor Cafe, with a lively outdoor eating and drinking patio on the water, had a trap door during prohibition through which liquor could be discretely transported.  And when government inspectors came around, by train of course, the saloon owners were notified by telegraph so that when the inspectors arrived they would see only prayer meetings.

Tiburon’s wonderful bike paths are the product of the railways—it was a simple task to remove the rails in the 1960’s and later put down asphalt.  These bike and jogging paths remain hugely popular today.  In addition, when the County and State dropped plans to build a highway out to the end of the peninsula, Tiburon gained access to land that is now being used for soccer fields (McKegney Green), South of the Knoll Park, and some extra space for Blackie’s Pasture (Blackie was a well loved horse).