Dick Jessup, at top, and the Depot Plaza he created, at bottom. Courtesy images.

Two weeks before he passed away at the age of 87 in July 2012, longtime local architect and civic leader Richard “Dick” Jessup hosted more than a dozen fellow former Mill Valley mayors at his home, an indication of Jessup’s stature in town and a realization that the end was near.

The group made small talk but mostly paid their respects to the man who came up with the idea to transform the former train station-turned-bus station at the center of Mill Valley’s downtown into the Depot Plaza, a community gathering place surrounded by parking. In 1982, the City of Mill Valley created the Depot Plaza based on Jessup’s design, and it remains the home of chalk drawings, fledgling two-wheel pedaling and scooting and relaxing.

Six years later, Mayor Stephanie Moulton-Peters, Mill Valley City Councilmembers and City officials are spearheading an event to honor Dick Jessup with a plaque dedication in honor of Jessup on October 20 at 11am in the Depot Plaza. A celebration with refreshments will follow the dedication.

“He was a renaissance man,” said his daughter and local architect Kim Jessup at the time of her father’s death. “He was a great architect, a very talented craftsman, he loved gardening, a good athlete, a gentleman, a visionary, a great husband and father and just a very kind man.”
“It’s probably his crown jewel because it’s such an important part of downtown and it looks like it’s been there forever,” she added about the plaza. “You almost can’t imagine now what it looked like before.”

Jessup’s plans were later used by Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey, which was hired by the city to implement the project, which did not have universal support in town, according to former Mill Valley Mayor Dick Spotswood, who succeeded Jessup on the City Council.

“Everybody got on board and the minute they voted for it, the opposition went away,” Spotswood said. “Now if you look back and someone says, ‘Let’s demolish the plaza and put in a bus turnaround there,’ folks would go nuts.”

Born in Roslyn, N.Y., Jessup moved to Prescott, Ariz., when he was 10 years old to live with the Ormes, family friends in the central Arizona high country, in an effort to see if the dry air there would help his severe asthma. It did. He returned to New York to finish his schooling, attending Princeton University as an undergraduate and getting his architectural degree from the Pratt Institute in New York City.

Dick and Lyn Jessup moved to the Bay Area in 1956, immediately settling into the Cornelia Ave. home where they’d live for the next 56 years.

Jessup first got involved with the city in 1971 as a planning commissioner. He was elected to the City Council 1976 and served one term.

​The 411: The City of Mill Valley hosts a plaque dedication and celebration of Richard “Dick” Jessup on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 11am in the Depot Plaza. 

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