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History Watch

May 14, 2018

Marin history: Sir Francis Drake Highway’s dedication

Sir Francis Drake Highway was completed in 90 days. (Courtesy of Marin History Museum)

Sir Francis Drake Highway was completed in 90 days. (Courtesy of Marin History Museum)

Posted: 05/14/18

On Nov. 16, 1929, the formal dedication for the completion of the “cement” roadway to be named Sir Francis Drake Highway was cause for a countywide celebration. A procession of automobiles carrying more than 200 residents and local dignitaries left the San Rafael Courthouse and drove the new highway to the town of Olema, where they were met by scores of West Marin residents. The dedication ceremony took place outside the Olema Hotel at the junction of the new highway and what was then Route 1 connecting Bolinas to the towns of Point Reyes and Tomales. The San Rafael High School Band provided musical accompaniment and Mary Menzies, of San Rafael, broke a bottle on the cement pavement and declared, “I christen thee Sir Francis Drake Highway.”

Contractor J. V. Galbraith completed the highway in 90 days, 30 days ahead of schedule using, newspapers claimed, “34 million pounds of sand, 61 million pounds of gravel and 160,000 bags of cement.” Marin County engineer Robert Messner supervised the project and while doing so pioneered the use of redwood joints between the concrete slabs to aid in expansion because of changes in temperature at different times of the year.

The booster group Marvelous Marin was in charge of the dedication ceremony and was primarily responsible for getting the bond measure passed to pay for the highway on the 1925 countywide ballot. After the ceremony, everyone was invited into downtown Point Reyes for a catered lunch, speeches and music at Forester’s Hall, now a suite of private residences. After the festivities, many of the celebrants drove over to Inverness, then down to Bolinas and ended their daylong motoring journey at Stinson Beach before heading home.

P. O. Box 150727, San Rafael, CA 94915        415-382-1182    

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