The History of a Boutique Town by San Francisco Bay
Located north of San Francisco in Marin County, Sausalito is known for its picturesque view of the city across the bay, quaint small town atmosphere, close proximity to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and large community of houseboat dwellers. Sausalito is situated near the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge and before the bridge’s construction was the main transit terminal for rail, car and ferry traffic. During World War II the city developed as a major shipbuilding center although the industrial character of Sausalito lasted only until the end of the war. After the war the city became well known as an artist haven, picturesque residential community and Bay Area tourist attraction.
Sausalito’s first residents were a Coast Miwok tribe known as the Liwanelowa which inhabited the area until the early 1900’s when the first European explorers and settlers arrived. In 1822 William A. Richardson, an English mariner who had assumed Mexican citizenship, began petitioning the government of the Mexican territory to grant him the purchase of a large plot of land north of the city of San Francisco. The government denied Richardson permission to purchase the land stating that inland territory with an abundance of fresh water was reserved for military use only. Richardson appealed and fought for the right to the land and in 1838 the government granted him legal title to the 19,751 acres along what is now known as Richardson Bay.
Although Richardson’s purchase made it possible for a permanent settlement to be constructed in the area, this didn’t happen for another 60 years after the extension of the North Pacific Coast Railroad which allowed for the transportation of goods to the town. Several decades later in 1926 a ferry terminal was built which connected Sausalito to San Francisco across the bay. This enabled residents of Sausalito access to all the comforts of the city.
Sausalito has always been tethered to the big city across the bay, due to its wealth of beautiful and inspiring resources. At first it was the Redwoods growing in seemingly endless numbers that were cut down and shipped to San Francisco by boat, and then rail. But the rails stopped in Sausalito, so they used a large fleet of ferry boats to bring cargo to the fast growing city of San Francisco. Sausalito was a working-class, blue-collar type of town. The ferries also brought the people with leisure time out of the city to embark on trips into the woods and the rugged coastlines of Marin and Sonoma counties and beyond.
One of the most important resources since 1850 has been the fruit of the vine, as cultivated, nurtured, fermented and aged into world-renowned wines from Napa and Sonoma Valleys. From 1856 to 1906, the growth of the wine industry fueled the growth of the tourist industry, and Sonoma Valley was the destination of choice, full of hotels, restaurants, and wineries for “locals” from San Francisco and tourists from around the world. The Great Earthquake, followed by Prohibition (of alcohol) caused a deep recession in the wine business, which was bad news for Sausalito as well. The near-fatal blow was the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge, which attracted even more tourists to the Bay Area, but caused the great majority of all travelers and freight to bypass the newly quiet little town, which entered a deep economic depression. The Bohemian sub-culture of artists, poets, beatniks and hippies of the mid-twentieth century (somewhat ironically) helped to stimulate Sausalito’s economy, but the rediscovery of California’s potential as a world-class wine producing region in 1976 finally put Sausalito back on the map, so to speak.
For over 3 decades, people who live in the densely populated urban areas have been traveling north to the California Wine Country in ever growing numbers. Sausalito is a wonderfully quaint little bedroom community with a downtown main street of wall to wall shops and restaurants with a slant toward high quality and price. The views of San Francisco, Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, et al, from the waterfront walk along Bridgeway are not to be missed. Several fine restaurants are built out over the water to make for a memorable dining experience. Regular ferry service to San Francisco’s Ferry Building and Pier 41 make it easy to get into the city for day trips or tours (Check schedules for last return time!).
Sausalito is now home to 7,330 residents and 4,254 houseboats which dock along the southeastern shore of the town. The town is easily accessible from San Francisco by ferry or the Golden Gate Bridge and is a popular Bay Area tourist destination.