When Winter Snow Fell on Mt. Tam: Unusual, but Nothing New

Don’t think those recent late-winter storms were the first time Mount Tamalpais has been covered in snow.

Nearly 102 years ago, Marin County received a Christmas Day blast that shrouded Mount Tamalpais in white and left the City of Belvedere with battered-down homes and fences. In the above photo, taken in late December 1921, Mount Tam is wearing a white shawl while overlooking the damage. The thin strip of land barely above water in the background is today’s San Rafael Avenue; and the road in the foreground is Beach Road. The two-story buildings at the far right and far left not only survived the storm, but are both still standing today. So why does this area look so different now?

Well, for the next 20 or so years the area depicted in the 1921 photo remained dominated by that large bay. Then in the early 1940s, according to Pictorial History of Belvedere, “Developer Harry Allen, owner of the Belvedere Land Company, got the grand idea to fill in most of that bay and create fingers of land where waterfront homes could be built.” Today the completed project includes 234 homes that are priced into the many millions of dollars and are scenically surrounded by acres of placid water.

However, following World War II, when Allen first started asking $5,000 for a lagoon-front lot, there was considerable sales resistance. Again, according to Pictorial History of Belvedere, many a lookie-loo would leave Allen’s sales office muttering, “Who’d ever want to live in a mudflat?”