By I. F. McDowell, October 16, 1936

San Rafael’s Fourth Street is depicted in this detail of a color postcard at a time when automobiles began to compete with horses. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

This Federal Writers’ Project narrative was compiled by a writer assigned to document Marin County history in the 1930s. The typescript, and many others on a variety of subjects, is housed at the Anne T. Kent California Room.

Fifty years ago [in the 1880s] San Rafael was not much of a village, according to John (Jack the Red) Redmond who lived in the town all of his more than 70 years. …


By Carol Acquaviva

Front cover of the Marvel Mar restaurant menu, circa 1948. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

The Anne T. Kent California Room recently received a donation from Jeff Craemer of a group of historic restaurant menus. One menu is that of the Marvel Mar, a popular supper club and restaurant on the west side of Redwood Highway in Mill Valley, about where the Travelodge is today. (The full menu listings— from frog legs to omelettes — is included below.)

Built near the end of 1936, and originally called “Brock’s,” then “Brock’s Marvel Mar,” the restaurant was under the ownership of Guy and Neva Whitt Brock. The Brocks sold the Marvel Mar in July…


By Robert L. Harrison

1915 “Vacation Land” brochure issued by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.

A little over one hundred years ago, a trip on the train was often great fun. The railroads heavily advertised their passenger getaways. Automobiles were not yet a serious option and for many, the train provided the only choice for all but the shortest leisure trip. Today, riding the train for some is an enjoyable experience but for most flying or driving is preferred.

As early as the 1880s, railroads serving Marin offered passenger “Excursions.” Most were scheduled for Sunday when there were few freight trains. The May 1890 edition of the Bancroft’s Railway Guide included…


By Lori Deibel

Branson School students in the 1920s. Image source: The Branson School.

On June 8, 1922, The Marin Journal reported that during graduation ceremonies for The Katharine Branson School in San Rafael, Headmistress Katharine Branson announced that the school would reopen in the Fall at the former estate of John Martin in nearby Ross. The school’s move to the secluded and pastoral valley would mark its beginnings as one of the most respected and prestigious boarding and then preparatory schools in the nation. Few people, however, are aware that the school began in a barn one block from downtown San Rafael.

In the 1910s, the growing population of San…


By Carol Acquaviva

Diane, serving as chairperson of the Friends-sponsored “Love a Librarian” party at the Corte Madera Library, February 12, 1982.

We are sad to share news of the recent passing of Diane Rosenberger, a treasured member of our local library community.

Diane’s contributions to libraries were innumerable. Diane was a member of the Friends of the Marin County Free Library beginning in 1979, and served as chairperson for many projects, as well as Vice President (1981–1982), and President (1984–1985). Her longest serving position was as Treasurer, from 1988 until 2005.

Friends groups are essential to public libraries. The Friends are comprised of community members who promote an understanding of the library and its needs. They foster a…


By Dewey Livingston

The iconic 1873 Map of Marin County, California (detail) by Hiram Austin depicts rancho boundaries, the county line, townships, school districts, and property lines. (The bold line depicts a potential route for the North Pacific Coast Railroad, which in the end did not take that route.) Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

For millennia the Coast Miwok people lived on the land we now call Marin County, and did not need maps to guide their way or delineate boundaries. The neighboring families and cultural groups recognized ephemeral borders, marked by language variations in addition to physical markers. To the Miwok people, it was no doubt strange and shocking to have Europeans arrive, take possession of their land and food sources, and apply boundaries forcefully backed by the interlopers’ legal system.

The first property lines drawn in Marin were on paper, based mostly on geographical features, and these proved to…


By Dewey Livingston, Map Archivist, Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library

Black Mountain in West Marin in 1952. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

There are many avenues to travel in order to find historical information about your home, large property, neighborhood or wider community: ask a neighbor who has been there a long time; visit the library; join the variety of historical societies in the county; look for answers on the internet. Staff in the Anne T. California Room have offered research services and resources to the public for decades, and during the pandemic we have worked extra hard to answer all of your queries via phone and email.


By Robert L. Harrison

Olympic Games: 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1992, and 1998

Over the years, several athletes from Marin County have participated in the Olympics. This year there are four Marin residents, or former residents, in the Tokyo Games: Kate Courtney from Kentfield is riding in the mountain biking event; Dylan Woodhead is swimming for the water polo team; Joe Ryan is playing baseball; and Kendall Chase is rowing in the women’s four-person boat competition.

Past Marin County Gold medal winners include Archie Williams at Adolph Hitler’s 1936 Games, Ann Curtis at the 1948 London games and Jonny Moseley at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagamo Japan.


By Robert L. Harrison

“The heaven that Sir Oliver and Sir Arthur report is the heaven imagined by fat-headed old women who love the dark and two dollars” circa 1918. Artist: Wright, George Hand, 1872–1951. Cabinet of American illustration (Library of Congress).

Alternatives to traditional Western religions have been and continue to be popular in Marin County. A survey conducted in 2000 by San Francisco’s Institute of Jewish and Community Research (IJCR) found, in contrast to the rest of the country, a far higher percentage of people in Marin County embrace alternative religions or no religion at all.

In Marin, 23 percent reported “other” as their religious preference, a larger number than those identifying as Roman Catholics or Jewish, and just behind the 27 percent identifying themselves as Protestants. …


By Dewey Livingston

Marie Leonardi on the day of her wedding to John Lorenzen in 1939. Courtesy of the Lorenzen Family.

Marie Leonardi was a typical San Rafael girl raised in the ‘teens and 1920s. Her Italian family joined the many others from that country in Marin and she had a busy social life with family and friends from school. There were plenty of fun things for a teenager to do in Marin: dancing at the Rose Bowl, swimming at the San Rafael Baths, riding the train to the Sausalito ferry for farther adventures in San Francisco.

We are fortunate that, late in life, Marie Leonardi Lorenzen wrote down many of her memories for a granddaughter’s school project…

Anne T. Kent California Room

The official Medium account of the archive of Marin County history & culture at the Marin County Free Library http://tinyurl.com/MarinCoSocialMedia

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