History

The history of the Outdoor Art Club is rich and varied.
As the story goes, a small group of women were out taking a walk one morning in 1902, their husbands were off at the Bohemian Club. On their walk they came upon some workmen cutting down redwood trees near the square. They were aghast and decided that they should form an organization to preserve the beauty of Mill Valley.

 

1902-1905

The Outdoor Art Club, founded in 1902 by 35 civic minded Mill Valley Women, has never lacked for things to do. As early as August 2, 1902, the front page of the Marin Enterprise newspaper reported that the club had named the avenues and streets in new additions to the city. In November 1902 the Mill Valley Record reported that the Club had held "Clearance Days" with 53 school children clearing debris around the Old Mill (a California landmark) and the school grounds.
In 1903, a Building Association was formed by the Club, for the purpose of providing the Club with a home. Capital stocks were fixed at $5,000, representing 500 shares at $10 per share, with 4% guaranteed. A lovely parcel of land, close to the center of town, was chosen and four lots purchased for $3,000. By February of 1904, Bernard Maybeck had been contracted to draw plans for the clubhouse. By June the plans were accepted and construction began with the laying of the cornerstone on August 4, 1904. The new clubhouse was completed November 1, 1904. The total cost of the building was Maybeck's fee of $165.37 and contractor Charles Alsup's fee plus materials; of $3,150. The ladies were off and running, having accomplished their goal - a home for the Outdoor Art Club.

 

1906-1938

Between 1904 and 1923 the Club took an ever increasing responsibility for the well being of the young city. The Club began a 7 year project of providing Summit School with a playground (complete with retaining walls, trees, fencing, level ground and play equipment), worked with children to cut down caterpillar infestation (by paying children to collect jars full of caterpillars) and renovated the Sulphur Spring (laying new pipe, cleaning up and providing trash containers).

In 1906 the clubhouse was opened to the homeless victims on the San Francisco earthquake and, along with the Red Cross, provided shelter, food and clothing. They did the same when disastrous fires swept the hills above Mill Valley in 1913 and 1929, as well as acting as a cookhouse for the preparation of meals for the firefighters. The Club also sponsored, staffed, housed and paid for Mill Valley's first library (in the backstage room) until Carnegie Library was opened in 1911, at which time they contributed 750 books and furnishings. The Club presented the City with a bronze plaque, flag pole and drinking fountain for the town center in 1918, after having opened the clubhouse (in conjunction with the Red Cross) for wartime work for soldiers and sailors during the years of WW I. In 1923 the Club led a successful drive to save vegetation along the hiking trails of Mount Tamalpais and convinced the Marin County Board of Supervisors to take over responsibility for policing fire trails.

The debt on the clubhouse was paid off by 1920, but the membership had risen sharply and additional space was needed. In 1923 after unsuccessfully attempting to contact Bernard Maybeck, the Club hired a local architect, William E. Huson and a contractor, a Mr. Hanson, and proceeded with additions to the Clubhouse. This time the price was higher - $7,525 excluding architect's fee. (The next year, with the larger building came higher property taxes from $181 to $494!) The city did come forth with one pleasant surprise, however -- they gave the Club redwood logs to renovate the decaying pergola and porch.

In 1924 a Well Baby Clinic was initiated at the clubhouse with the Club sponsoring housing and paying for the service. This marked the beginning of the Marin County Health Department. Over the years. many members of the Outdoor Art Club have volunteered their time to this important service. The ladies produced three one-act plays in order to give the new Old Mill School its volleyball, basketball, tennis courts and utility areas.

 

1939-1960

By 1939, the last addition to the clubhouse had been made, that of enclosing the open back porch area for additional space. 62 years later in 2001, the west wall was reconstructed with floor-to-ceiling windows opening onto a 12 ft. by 40 ft. deck with steps going down to what is now the wedding garden.

The City flagpole had become so unsafe, the Club replaced it. Dry rot was discovered in the pergola and porch at the front entry of the clubhouse, so it was replaced by a concrete and brick patio. In 1951, a parcel of land was purchased to the rear of the clubhouse, which completed the garden.

Through the years the Clubhouse has been used by its members for community, social, civic, literary, cultural and self-improvement activities. The regularly scheduled second and fourth Thursday afternoon luncheons and teas are followed by programs of interest to the membership. They also hold many other meetings involved with gardening, book readings, civics and conservation, community services, clubhouse maintenance, operations and ways and means planning. There are some evening activities, such as a St. Patrick's Day party and a Christmas dinner dance.

The Club offers classes and programs under the Cultural Arts Section. In addition, the Clubhouse is rented for weddings, reunions and meetings. It would be impossible to count the number of Marin County and San Francisco marriages that began in the garden and Clubhouse of the Outdoor Art Club.

The Club's Community Service section makes and distributes, photos, pillows, shawls, bed socks and lap robes to rest homes throughout Marin County at Christmas. In the past, bingo parties and an annual Christmas party were held at Mill Valley rest homes.

The Civics and Conservation Section monitors local governments, discusses pros and cons on many issues of current community interest and encourages the Club's members to be knowledgeable on many issues of concern to the Club and the community. Through this section come many financial gifts from the Club to conservation causes. For example, they purchased and gave the new section of land adjoining Old Mill Park to the City to complete the park; led the campaign to purchase the Redwood Grove adjoining Miller Grove Park; sponsored and paid for a map of Cascade Falls Park; and worked with local groups to purchase equipment and material for local park renovation.

 

1961-1978

The Club's conservation efforts are not limited to Mill Valley. Through the years they have joined with other conservation organizations to purchase land for Audubon Canyon Ranch Wildlife Preserve in Bolinas (1962); plant seedling pines in over 30 acres of El Dorado National Forest (long term project); conserve the Corte Madera tidelands (1965); preserve Kent Island in Bolinas Lagoon (1967); save the Butterfly Trees of Muir Beach (1972-73); and helped purchase open space land in the Northridge portion of the Marin County Open Space Plan, culminating in the purchase of Northridge in 1984. The Club spearheaded the drive to purchase important railroad acreage above Mill Valley (1976). They also were the sole Mill Valley sponsors of the California Historic Resources Inventory (l977).

The membership of the Club approved the resolution originating in the Civics and Conservation section which became Proposition J on the November 1964 ballot for the enactment of the State Beach Park, Recreational and Historical Faciliaties Bond Act of 1964. Endorsed by the Golden Gate District and California Federation of Women's Clubs, it was ultimately approved by the state electorate. In May of 1964 the Outdoor Art Club received a commendation by the Main County Board of Supervisors for its outstanding conservation program.

The Richfield Conservation Award was received by the Club for its "outstanding contributions in the furtherance of conservation during the 1967-68 year." On March 1, 1976 the MiIl Valley City Council formally gave the Club appreciation for its conservation efforts toward saving the Lando trailhead acreage for open space.

Because of the outstanding and unique architectural design and historical value of the building, the Outdoor Art Club was designated as a Registered Historical Landmark on April 26, 1978. One of the most important tasks of its members is to maintain and preserve the building and grounds for the future.

This drawing was completed in 1983 by John Norall. It has been used by the club since that time.

 

 

1979-Present

In 1984, the Club co-sponsored two candidate nights in conjunction with the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters. They also had a program about the Constitution, with two judges present to explain our system of justice. The Civics and Conservation Section contributes annually to a variety of conservation causes.

The Club has contributed, through the Outreach Committee, to such worthy causes as the Redwoods; Whistlestop - Meals on Wheels; Wee Care Infant Day Care; Mill Valley Public Library; Marin County Library; music programs at MIll Valley Middle School and Tamalpais High School; Southern Marin Day Care for the Elderly; Marine Mammals; Northridge Open Space; Refugee Settlement and the Terwilliger Nature Education Foundation.

As a longtime member, the late Honor Grant said in 1962, "Today we salute our Founders, who had the initiative. courage and foresight to band together to combat vandalism and foster natural beauty; in fact to render our valley, if possible, a more desirable place of residence..."

 

Today

Membership in the Outdoor Art Club now numbers over 400 women of all ages, proud of the many accomplishments of their Club and happy to be involved with their community and the world around it.

 
 

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