The history of Mill Valley began with John Reed. Subsequent to the acquisition of a 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.
Nestled at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais, only ten miles from San Francisco, Mill Valley became a favorite vacation spot for wealthy city dwellers. In1896 a mountain railway, nicknamed “The Crookedest Railroad in the World,” carried passengers from town to the mountain’s summit and to Muir Woods. Although the tracks were removed in 1930, the Old Railroad Grade is currently very popular with hikers and bikers.
Shortly after the town was incorporated in 1900 two town traditions began. The Outdoor Art Club was founded in 1902, a group whose purpose was, and still is, to preserve the beauties of Mill Valley. The Dipsea Race was first run in 1905 and has been held almost every year since. It is the second oldest race in the country, behind the Boston Marathon. The race is 7.1 miles long, from Lytton Square in Mill Valley over Mt. Tam to Stinson Beach.
The Fall Arts Festival is one of the cultural events that occur in Mill Valley each year. It is the longest running festival in the County, celebrating its 41st year in 1997. The Mill Valley Film Festival, also held in the fall, draws thousands of film enthusiasts and artists from around the world.
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.