Tucked away in Forest Knolls, the Papermill Creek Saloon plays host to a crowd comprised of mostly locals along with tourists who probably took a wrong turn. I was lucky enough to spend New Years 2014 at this hole in the wall (not as random as it sounds, as I have friends who live in the Knolls) and the night was filled with warm lights, live hillbilly rock, a friendly atmosphere and lots of laughs. Discovering the unique history that brought this place about makes me even more thankful that undiscovered jewels like the Papermill exist throughout Marin.
For the magazine:
The Papermill opened in 1907 as a general store and was eventually named for the paper mill (the first on the West Coast) that was then operating at what is now Samuel P. Taylor State Park. During Prohibition, the building functioned as a soda fountain/ice cream shop, but in 1937, milk shakes were tossed out in favor of alcohol. “The whole back-bar wood construction is from 1937, but the actual bar and floors and most of the building are original from 1907,” says manager Jared Litwin. Thomasina Wilson purchased the bar, then known simply as “The Lodge,” in 1967; at the time, Janis Joplin and the Holding Company were Lagunitas residents and regular patrons. Wilson succeeded in transforming the once-rough bar into the cozy dive that it is today. “Thomasina turned 90 this November,” says Litwin. “And she is definitely still the boss.”
What They Say: Jared Litwin, manager
Is Papermill a dive bar? I would consider the Papermill a dive bar. I don’t think that’s a bad thing like perhaps it once was — dive bars are endearing in a way, and sought out.
Your definition of a dive bar? Unpretentious, funky and definitely old. Independently owned and operated. No Wi-Fi, only one kind of wine.
Describe the Papermill? A rustic spot for friends to gather; everyone really does know your name. We’re like a family, but don’t worry — we are welcoming to outsiders.
Dive Bar Checklist:
Games? Two pool tables.
Celebrity photos? Yes.
TV is always on? Usually, yes.
PBR available? Yes.
Muddled cocktails? No.
Wedding parties and high school reunions? We’re a bit out of the way.
Fake fireplace? We have a great real fireplace.
Food served in bags (chips, nuts, etc.)? No.
Papermill T-shirts? Not yet, but I’m trying to make that happen.