Extending from San Francisco Bay on the east side to Mt. Tam on the west, Corte Madera illustrates the wonderful Marin County blend of nature along with all the amenities of city living. Originally named Adams to honor Jerry Adams, the first postmaster, the name was changed to Corte Madera which in Spanish translates to the imperative command "Chop wood", as in "Do chop the wood". The town of Corte Madera is on part of Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio granted to John Reed in 1834 by Mexican Governor Jose Figueroa. Reed quickly took to the lumber industry, logging the area's immense supply of redwoods and shipping the lumber to San Francisco by way of Corte Madera Creek-some of this wood was used to build the Presidio in San Francisco. And the town kept growing.
At the turn of the century Corte Madera had attracted a number of families from San Francisco who came for the summer. Christmas Tree Hill was subdivided in tiny 25' x 25' lots for use as tent sites on the weekends. After the 1906 earthquake, many of these tent sites were used to build permanent homes, where some of the tiny cabins remain to this day. Corte Madera incorporated in 1916.
In 1850, California joined the Union, and the Gold Rush, by then a year old, brought more settlers to the area. By 1875, the North Pacific Coast Railroad set its tracks through Corte Madera, allowing flatcars to haul lumber, and later, passenger trains to service commuters to and from San Francisco, aided in its early stages by the Sausalito ferry. A few of those commuters significantly influenced the formation of Old Town.
The square around the train station was the original center of Corte Madera, around which everything bloomed exponentially - and literally. Established in 1916 and preserved by the Women's Club, Railroad Park is located in the northwest quadrant of the old train station square. It was renamed Menke Park in the early 1950s after the town leased the property from the railroad and took over maintenance of the land.
Today Menke Park is a beautifully landscaped area with rose bushes and hydrangea, and the bright romanticism of Piccolo Pavilion's gazebo, bordered by a walkway and antique lampposts with hanging baskets bursting with bouquets of red, purple, yellow and pink flowers.
The Fourth of July celebration - joining Corte Madera and its "twin city", Larkspur - draws thousands of spectators and residents from all over the Bay Area. The event includes a parade through Old Town, as well as festivities and a picnic in the nearby Town Park.
Today the hill at the base of Corte Madera is called Christmas tree hill; because the lighted homes on the hill leading up to Mt.Tamalpais create the shape of a lighted Christmas tree.