But Richardson’s time with the land was
fraught — he started developing the area
before his claim for it was even filed, went to
live near the Presidio in San Francisco for a
period of time, and after years of legal battles
was finally officially granted the title in 1838.
He then built a hacienda in the vicinity of what
is now Caledonia Street and grew wealthy from
various businesses he had there. However,
the money didn’t last — Richardson ended
up dying bankrupt in 1856, and the majority
of Rancho Sausalito was sold to the Sausalito
Land and Ferry Company in 1868. A mining
agent named Samuel Reading Throckmorton
handled the sale and took a part of Rancho
Sausalito as payment.
Railroads were built and extended in the
coming years, and a ferry route was established to bring passengers and their cars
from Sausalito to San Francisco’s Hyde
Street Pier. The makeup of the population
was diverse — well-heeled San Franciscans
built summer homes in the hills, while
Chinese shopkeepers, Italian merchants
and Portuguese boatbuilders set up around
Water Street (present-day Bridgeway).
During Prohibition, Sausalito earned noto-
riety as a center for bootlegging and was
popular with rumrunners and outlaws like
Baby Face Nelson.
Later, not long after after the Golden Gate
Bridge was erected in 1937, the city reinvented itself again. Train operations ceased
in 1941 just as war efforts mounted, and the
scope of the World War II conflict called for
a large fleet of cargo ships and oil tankers.
A shipbuilding company owned by W.A.
Bechtel Company, which eventually became
known as Marinship, was founded here in
1942. (One of its structures, the Industrial
Center Building, or ICB, is now a home to a
thriving group of artists.)
Some 2,000 employees worked continu-
ously to build the massive shipyard, and
Marin City arose to house the workforce.
A large share of the workers were African
Americans, who came from Southern states
seeking the wages shipbuilding offered. But
the group also included Chinese laborers and
women, who, with so many men away at war,
held an estimated quarter of the shipyard
jobs, like “Rosie the Riveters” nationwide.
By the time its operations ended in 1945, the shipyard had produced
93 Liberty Ships and oil tankers.
A vibrant community sprang up along the shore after the war, includ-
ing many houseboat hubs, some of which still exist today. Though floating
homes are now seen as hallmarks of the city, their first inhabitants drew
the ire of developers wishing to expel them, sparking a battle known as
the “Houseboat Wars.”
Environmental roots here also run deep. Around the same time a bur-
geoning art scene was developing, Sausalito was embroiled in a struggle
to protect land that’s now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation
Area from becoming a development named Marincello. Meanwhile,
Heath Ceramics and the legendary Record Plant recording studio
came into being, and Sausalito attracted well-known figures like Shel
Silverstein, Otis Redding and Sally Stanford, the former San Francisco
madam who opened a Sausalito restaurant and later served as mayor.
The city remains enigmatic. Old haunts like the No Name Bar and the
Trident are still around (or in the latter case, back), albeit more polished,
and tensions continue to roil between disparate communities, most
recently the area’s hill dwellers and anchor-outs. Innovation and creativity are still a part of this place, and so are efforts to keep it grounded, or
“salty,” as local bumper stickers say. m
First Europeans, from
Spain, arrive in the area
given land grant
to Rancho Saucelito
First post office
is opened, called
Name is officially
changed to Sausalito
Sausalito is incorporated as a city
Passenger and auto
ferry service to San
Ferry services cease
Marin County to
stop the Marincello
Marincello lawsuit, land
becomes open space
and part of the GGNRA;
ferry services return
Former San Francisco
madam Sally Stanford
elected mayor of
Marinship in 1943.
depot in 1914 .