The History of West Marin’s Olema Hotel

A high-end restaurant named Sir and Star has most recently occupied the nearly 150-year-old Olema Hotel building.* Why that name? Because it is located at the corner of today’s Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and, in the foreground of the accompanying photo, Star Route One, also known as California State Highway One.

According to West Marin historian Dewey Livingston, the building was constructed in 1876 by Scandinavian immigrant stage driver John Nelson and moved across the road to the present location in 1879. “Back then,” says Livingston, “Sir Francis Drake Boulevard was referred to as the ‘Olema road;’ it was a stagecoach route connecting Olema to San Rafael.” This photo was taken “around 1905,” when, according to Livingston, “the two-story structure was already about 30 years old and had been doubled in size.”

It depicts the tiny village of Olema — meaning “coyote valley” in Coast Miwok language — which, to this day is a popular stopping spot for tourists heading to Point Reyes National Seashore. In 1919, Henry Fielding Reid of the State Earthquake Investigating Commission declared Olema to be the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. But that finding was later recalculated in favor of a point in the ocean off Daly City, some 50 miles south of Olema. However, 147 years after it first opened, the Olema Hotel building is still standing.

*The restaurant Sir and Star, is currently closed for remodeling and will reopen, according to owners Daniel Delong and Margaret Grade, “In spring of 2024.”