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A Christmas Gift

A storm left Mount Tamalpais in snow and Belvedere battered but with prospects of better things to come.

FOR CHRISTMAS OF 1921, Marin County received a big storm that left Mount Tamalpais covered in snow and the city of Belvedere with broken homes and a battered-down fence. In the above photo, taken in late December 1921, you see Mount Tam overlooking the scene. The barely above water strip of land with dozens of telephone poles in the background is today’s San Rafael Avenue, and the road in the foreground, that’s Beach Road. The two-story buildings at the far right and far left in the photo not only survived the storm but are both still standing. But why does this place look so different now? Well, up until the late 1930s this area was a bay, a large bay. But then, according to Pictorial History of Belvedere, “Developer Harry Allen, owner of the Belvedere Land Company, got the grand idea to fill most of it in, creating fingers of land.” And today the completed design includes 234 homes priced in the multimillions and 30 deluxe duplexes, all of which are surrounded by 66 acres of placid water. However, in the late 1940s, following World War II, when Allen first started asking $5,000 for a lagoon-front home site, there was considerable sales resistance. According to the book, many a lookie-loo said, “Who’d ever want to live in a mudflat?” as he or she walked away in a huff.

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