History of Mountain Home Inn
Until 1885, the only way up the mountain was by cowtrail. In 1886, a scenic railway known as the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” was built. It had 22 trestles and 281 curves. The round-trip cost $1.00 from Mill Valley and $1.40 from San Francisco.
In 1912 a Swiss-German couple homesick for the Alps decided to build a mountainside inn on Mt. Tamalpais. They reportedly camped all over the mountain looking for the best combination of weather and views. Claude Meyers and his wife found their desired site on a Mt. Tamalpais ridgeline straddling the ocean and San Francisco Bay.
This area of Tamalpais became known as “Little Switzerland” as more Swiss and German people came and built hiking and tourist clubs here.
Overnight guests include Jack London, a friend of an early owner, and the Grateful Dead.
The Inn became a Tamalpais landmark and a stop along the railroad route. For a long time it marked the end of the paved road on Mt. Tamalpais. Grandfathered in because of its historic status, the inn is the only commercial property permitted on the mountain.
In the 1930’s a spark from a train started a fire, causing the railroad to shut down for good. The “Old Railroad Grade” evolved into a hiking and mountain biking trail.
A mid-century menu notes the Inn had become the “oldest continuously operating restaurant in Marin and one of the oldest in the Bay Area.” During that era, it was owned by Mr. and Mrs.Pat Vincent and featured servers in lederhosen and dirndls.
In the 1970’s another in a line of colorful owners bought the Mountain Home Inn. Dieter Dengler’s life story became a book and later a movie by Werner Herzog entitled “Rescue Dawn” starring Christian Bale.
By the early 1980’s the inn was falling into disrepair and not functional as a guesthouse. The new owners hired architect John Deamer to renovate and bring it all up to code. John was a student of Paolo Solveri, the found of the concept “Arcology”, architecture coherent with ecology. Paolo studied under Frank Lloyd Wright who in 1991 the American Institute of Architects designated “the greatest American architect”. Their influences can be see in the expanse of windows, use of wood, and the blending of the interior with the exterior.
A soaring lobby was added to connect the street-side cafe with the guestrooms below. The inn’s new lobby was inspired by the Grand National Park Hotels of the 1930’s and their influences can be seen in the hardwood floors, redwood columns and the natural structure of the inn.
Mountain Home Inn Image courtesy of Lucretia Little History Room, Mill Valley Public Library