Sleepy Hollow

Connect these three names: Van Tassel, Van Ripper, Van Winkle. Give up? Try these two: Ichabod and Crane. Have you got it? They’re names from the Washington Irving classic story, “Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Along with Katrina, Knickerbocker and Tarry, those are street names in the Marin County community (post office: San Anselmo) of Sleepy Hollow, a place that, much like Rip Van Winkle himself, time has passed by.

“What’s so good about Sleepy Hollow?” 12-year resident Karen Martin asks rhetorically. “Most important, we have an incredible sense of community.” Martin defines the spirit of the community at the terminus of Butterfield Road, equidistant between Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Lucas Valley Road, as being “what life was like in the 1950s.” She adds: “There’s the Ladies Legend Club. We have our own community center and pool. Stabling of horses is allowed and there’s a Sleepy Hollow horsemen’s group, a tennis club, an undefeated swim team, and the wonderful Sleepy Hollow Nursery School. We have
potluck dinners, blood drives and a homespun Fourth of September parade and barbecue.”

Note what wasn’t said. There are no shops in Sleepy Hollow, no restaurants, no bookstores and no movie theater. It’s at the end of a two-mile-long, two-lane road, and there’s no other way out than the way arrived — on Butterfield Road.

“That’s what we love,” says Martin. “We’re all by ourselves out here. There’s a lot of ‘togetherness’ among us.” As an example, Martin cites September’s Sleepy Hollow Kitchen and Garden Tour (see sidebar). “It is strongly supported within the community,” she says, “and draws people from the entire Bay Area who want an authentic glimpse of what life is like in Sleepy Hollow.” And, says Martin, during the holidays the neighborhood known as Greensburgh-Whiteplains decorates so lavishly that almost everyone in Sleepy Hollow “visits those streets at least once, most likely two or three times.” In addition, Martin boasts that of the approximately 750 homes in the community more than 500 belong to the Sleepy Hollow Homes Association, a voluntary organization that serves as the governmental agency in the county, organizes community events and publishes a monthly newsletter.

As with most Marin communities, Sleepy Hollow’s early history includes Miwok Indians and Spanish land grants. In the 1850s, a grantee named Pedro Sais leased much of the surrounding acreage to one Harvey Butterfield, who fenced it and began a dairy farm. Soon, locals referred to the dirt trail leading to the dairy as “the road to Butterfield’s place.” In the late 1800s, Peter Austin acquired the land and planted the eucalyptus and poplar trees lining what had become known as “Butterfield’s road.” Austin sold his land to the wealthy Hotaling family of San Francisco (Washington Irving aficionados to the extreme), who built an estate at the end of Butterfield Road and name it Sleepy Hollow.

Community historian Audre LaBelle says that during the first half of the 1900s owners of Sleepy Hollow and its surrounding area included another dairy farmer, a Chicago stock syndicate, a golf course developer, the U.S. Army, and Mr. A. G. Raisch, who created an artificial lake. The Sleepy Hollow mansion was vacated in the 1950s and eventually burned down (its concrete walls and foundation are still visible). Meanwhile, homes were being built on nearby lots no smaller a third of an acre and a community was emerging. In 1966, the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church purchased the land and opened the San Domenico School, which remains an anchor of the Sleepy Hollow community, attracting students from all over the United States and the world.

What attracts home buyers to Sleepy Hollow? “It’s our schools, larger lots, and the strong feeling of neighborliness,” says realty agent Peter Narodny, of Frank Howard Allen’s Greenbrae office. Homes priced just above $1 million are typical for Sleepy Hollow, says Narodny, but “currently we have five properties available for over $2 million. In the mid-range, Narodny points to a four-bedroom, three-bath property on Butterfield Road, selling for $1,895,000. “It has a pool and a guest house on four tenths of an acre,” he says.

On the higher end of the area’s real estate market, Sharon B. Luce, a partner with Sleepy Hollow resident Darlene Hanley in Coldwell Banker’s Greenbrae office, cites a nearly new six-bedroom, four-bath listing on Tappan Road. “It’s on three acres, has a pool, has plenty of room for horses and is priced at $3,250,000.” Home prices in the neighborhood vary greatly, though. The Hanley-Luce partnership also has a three-bedroom, two-bath listing on Irving Drive for $1,299,000 that includes a “gorgeous pool” on a third of an acre.

Sleepy Hollow presents a consistent market. “People don’t come out here to speculate,” says Narodny. “They buy here to live with their families.” Hanley and Luce, have a similar observation: “Of the 750 homes in Sleepy Hollow, only a dozen are currently on the market,” says Luce. “People like living here; they’re reluctant to leave.”





Fourth Annual Sleepy Hollow Kitchen and Garden Tour

Sunday, September 30, 11 am – 4 pm

Five homes—an Eichler pool home, a Tuscan farmhouse, a Southwest contemporary, a California contemporary and one featuring Craftsman design—will be open during the Sleepy Hollow Kitchen and Garden Tour, September 30,
from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“This year we’ll have restaurant owners and chefs preparing their favorite dishes in most of the featured homes,” says Karen Martin, founder of the tour, which is presented by the Sleepy Hollow Ladies Legend Club.

Featured chefs include Jack Krietzman of Cucina and John Sarren of Bubba’s Diner, both in San Anselmo.

In addition, free pastries, champagne, wine and cheese will be available at the Sleepy Hollow Clubhouse on Butterfield Road, where box lunches can be purchased.

Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 the day of the event. They are available by phone (415.456.5951) or online at