The Country Club was a private resort in Bear Valley. (Courtesy of Marin History Museum)
Today, hikers wandering down the Bear Valley Trail toward the beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore pass a large, lovely meadow on their left known as Divide Meadow. Emerging from the mixed forest of pine, oak and bay, visitors are greeted by the often sun-drenched meadow that can provide a sunny picnic or resting spot along the trail. In a previous life this meadow was home to the the Country Club, a private resort belonging to the wealthy, influential members of San Francisco’s Pacific Union Club.
The city’s movers and shakers leased the land from the Shafter and Howard families in 1890 and built a luxurious club house that offered fine dining, a billiard room and library, a social hall, 35 elegant rooms for overnight visitors, and a fully stocked stables and kennels. Members and their guests could hunt and hike on 76,000 acres of pristine land, and fish in numerous lakes stocked with salmon, bass and trout. A San Francisco Call article in 1893 called the Country Club, “the premier sportsmen organization” of California and “the finest preserve in America.” Continuing, the Call reported that, “its immensity overpowers the visitor while the variety of game to be found causes him to pause in wonder.” The article waxed poetic in describing the clubhouse’s interior as, “equipped with every possible luxury and convenience calculated to either secure the comfort or enjoyment of the members.” Membership in the Country Club was initially set at 100, but increased to 125 within two years. Twenty years later, however, membership had dwindled to just a handful and the land was sold in 1919 by Julia Shafter, née Hamilton, to San Francisco beer distributor and bottler John Rapp, who planned to subdivide the land into smaller ranches.
In 1972, thanks to the efforts of Congressman Clem Miller, his widow, Katie Miller Johnson, Peter Behr and others, the Point Reyes National Seashore came into being. Now, “the finest preserve in America” can be enjoyed by all, for free, and the local animal and fish populations left in relative peace.