Just ten minutes north of San Francisco, Mill Valley is located on the western and northern shores of Richardson Bay. Beyond the flat coastal area and marshlands, it occupies narrow wooded canyons, mostly of second-growth redwoods, on the eastern slopes of Mount Tamalpais. The combination of Mill Valley's idyllic location nestled beneath Mount Tamalpais coupled with its ease of access to nearby San Francisco has made it a popular home for many high-income commuters. In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Mill Valley tenth on its list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States. In 2007, MSN and Forbes magazine ranked Mill Valley seventy-third on its "Most expensive zip codes in America" list.
The history of Mill Valley began with John Reed. In 1834, the governor of Alta California Jose Figueroa awarded to John T. Reed the first land grant in Marin, Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio. Just west of that, Rancho Saucelito was transferred to and developed by William A. Richardson in 1838. Richardson's name was later applied to Richardson Bay, an arm of the San Francisco Bay that brushes up against the eastern edge of Mill Valley. Richardson sold butter, milk and beef to San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Shortly thereafter, he made several poor investments and wound up massively in debt to many creditors. The rest of the rancho, including the part of what is now Mill Valley that did not already belong to Reed's heirs, was given to his administrator Samuel P. Throckmorton. Subsequent to the acquisition of the large land grant in 1834, Reed built a sawmill in 1836 on Cascade Creek to provide wood for the construction of his house. The mill, which gave Mill Valley its name, is now restored and stands among the towering redwoods in Old Mill Park, a few blocks from downtown. As payment of a debt, Throckmorton acquired a large portion of Rancho Saucelito in 1853-4 and built his own rancho "The Homestead" on what is now Linden Lane and Montford Avenue. Richardson and Reed had never formalized the boundary lines separating their ranchos. Richardson's heirs successfully sued Reed's heirs in 1860 claiming the mill was built on their property. The border was officially marked as running along the Corte Madera Creek along present day Miller Avenue. Everything to the east of the creek was Reed property, and everything to the west was Richardson land. It was Richardson's territory that would soon become part of Mill Valley when Throckmorton's daughter Suzanna was forced to relinquish several thousand acres to the San Francisco Savings & Union Bank to satisfy a debt of $100,000 against the estate in 1889. The San Francisco Savings & Union Bank organized the Tamalpais Land & Water Company in 1889 as an agency for disposing of the Richardson land gained from the Throckmorton debt. On 31 May 1890, nearly 3,000 people attended The Tamalpais Land & Water Co. land auction near the now-crumbling sawmill. More than 200 acres were sold that day in the areas of present day Throckmorton, Cascade, Lovell, Summit, and Miller Avenues and extending to the west side of Corte Madera Avenue. By 1892 there were two schools in the area and a few churches]. The auction also brought into Mill Valley architects, builders, and craftsmen. In 1896 a mountain railway, nicknamed "The Crookedest Railroad in the World," carried passengers from town to the Mt. Tamalpais' summit and to Muir Woods. Although the tracks were removed in 1930, the Old Railroad Grade is currently very popular with hikers and bikers. By 1900 the population was nearing 900 and the locals pushed out the Tamalpais Land & Water Co. in favor of incorporation. Tamalpais High School opened in 1907, the first city hall was erected in 1908, and Andrew Carnegie's library in 1910. The Post Office opened under the name "Eastland", however after many objections it was changed to "Mill Valley" in 1904.
Bordered on three sides by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument, Mt. Tamalpais State Park and watershed, Mill Valley offers spectacular recreational opportunities. But this is only part of its attractions. The people that have chosen to live here, from rock stars, artists, and nationally known authors, to business executives and political radicals; all are part of the eclectic mixture of talented folks who came for the pleasure of normalcy and anonymity to live in this incredibly beautiful and charming town. From the spectacular vistas atop Mount Tam, back-woods hiking, or a lazy weekend drive to the beaches, Mill Valley is an outdoor lover's paradise.