John Reed’s Adobe {1843} Mill Valley


#184/365 Paintings

Do  you know how challenging it is to paint the ruins of an adobe home that is so the opposite of ruined in history’s imagination? In fact, the ruins just fleshed out as I painted — filled in with clay and color with every new learned fact. Paint is a magician that way.

I spent some quality time in the history room in the Mill Valley library recently. The women who work there are nothing short of fabulous. Though this adobe home was in ruins most of it’s short life, it is the event that founded Mill Valley. I am captivated by this story. It’s complexity — the lacy skein of love and loss in a time when Mexico was taking measures to expand into California.

John Thomas Reed, an Irishman landed in Sausalito by ship in 1826. He obtained thousands of acres in a land grant from the Mexican government by 1834. Mill Valley, Tiburon, Strawberry. In 1836 He began construction of a saw mill in Mill Valley to construct this adobe house on Locke Ln. for his sweetheart Hilaria Sanchez, daughter of the commandante of the Presidio in SF. This saw mill is now a historical landmark, Old Mill Park and is the genesis of the name Mill Valley. He died before the house was complete in 1843. The adobe burned down in 1884. Though the ruins have sunk into the earth and have been built upon a few times over, the women in the library had a glint in their eye as they filled me in about the archeological dig in the works that will hopefully uncover more history inside the clay and burnt embers of this epic adobe. Buried or not it’s not dying anytime soon.


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  • Dave July 5, 2013   Reply →

    NICE, I have some Mill Valley Indian burial site information, I will email to you.

    • niya christine July 5, 2013   Reply →

      Wonderful. Thank you Dave.

  • cher t. July 5, 2013   Reply →

    I love that you are painting adobe houses. On our recent trip across the SW I was thrilled with every adobe I saw… some vacant along the way, and some new and inhabited. I took tons of photos on the fly, so some are better than others. I’d love to live in one just to see how it feels!

    • niya christine July 5, 2013   Reply →

      Yes, adobe’s have a very special quality about them. I always feel so safe and inspired in them. Thank you for your comment Cher!

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