Following Falkirk

The Victorian-style architecture of the Falkirk Cultural Center, complete with sweeping staircases and glittering chandeliers, brings to mind quaint days spent strolling the grounds in the bonnets and corsets of 127 years ago.  Nowadays, however, you are more likely to stumble upon a debate practice or poetry slam in the grand ballroom of this historic establishment.

Built in 1888, this San Rafael gem housed Ella Nichols Park. At the age of 33, Ella married her childhood friend’s 58-year old father. Unfortunately, her husband died within a year after they married, leaving Ella enough money to build her dream mansion on an 11-acre piece of land on Mission Avenue.

After Ella’s death in 1906, owner of the Dollar Steamship Company Robert Dollar bought the property. Dollar gained fame and adoration through his financial support for civic purposes in San Rafael and his round-the-world cargo and passenger service. The estate was later named Falkirk in honor of Dollar’s birthplace: Falkirk, Scotland. Interestingly enough, San Rafael and Falkirk became sister cities in 1988.

To prevent its destruction, San Rafael residents bought Falkirk in 1974 and ensured its safety as part of the National Register of Historic Places. Due to the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, however, this taxation was nulled.  The city currently manages to keep Falkirk by renting it out for weddings, meetings, private parties and other events.

A few highlights among the many events and organizations currently held at Falkirk include the Marin Master Gardeners, the Marin Poetry Center, Toastmasters, the Youth Bay Debate Club and Camp Lemonade for Kids.

This story was originally published in the February issue of 2006