With Its Long History, There Is So Much More to Mill Valley Than Meets the Eye. Here Are Three Historical Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Mill Valley
Beat Poet Haven
In the 1950s, the Beat poetry countermovement reacted to post-war life with exquisite language, and the beauty of Marin County was not lost on these innovative writers. Iconic Beat poets such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Neal Cassady, and Gary Snyder called Mill Valley home. Snyder purchased a hilltop residence where he often hosted fellow poets, including Kerouac
, and in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais, these creators found inspiration and companionship. Although the homestead has since been demolished, some consider the spot to still house the ghosts of these brilliant poets.
“Crookedest Railroad in the World”
Until 1931, Mill Valley was home to the Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railroad, which was considered to be the crookedest railroad in the world. The railway reached Muir Woods, bringing guests to the redwood forests with the added risk of motion sickness. After enduring 281 curves over eight miles on the ascending trip, guests were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Bay Area. The return trip went by much more smoothly—literally. The railway featured an iconic new invention called the gravity car that used the pull of gravity to bring guests down twelve miles of forested terrain like the longest rollercoaster ride ever. The railway operated between 1896 and 1931, but Muir Woods is still a popular nature retreat today—even without an adrenaline-filled train ride to the top.
Coast Miwok Ancestry
Towering Mt. Tamalpais owes its name to the Coast Miwok, a tribe of indigenous people who inhabited Mill Valley as early as 6,000 years ago. In 1845, it was recorded that they called the mountain “támal pájiṣ” which translates approximately to “west hill.” As many as 5,000 of the Coast Miwok people once inhabited Mill Valley. That is, of course, until Spanish settlers brought diseases like smallpox to the area, which left them woefully defenseless and nearly destroyed their community.
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