The 129-year-old Mill Valley Lumber Yard is one of the oldest landmarks in town and the history of the property is integral to the history of the City of Mill Valley itself. Founded concurrent with the late-19th century origins of Mill Valley and located along one of its two main thoroughfares, you’ve likely passed this long-standing commercial landmark on Miller Avenue even if you have never stepped foot on the property.
MVLY is the subject of the latest installment of Mapping Mill Valley History, a collaboration between the MV Chamber and the MV Public Library‘s Lucretia Little History Room in which we invite you to tour familiar streets and buildings and see how they have evolved over the years. To date, we’ve covered the O’Shaughnessy Building at 59-67 Throckmorton Avenue, currently home to the sleek home goods store Prevalent Projects, as well as the former French Laundry at 138 E. Blithedale Avenue, now home to Revery Salon, as well as MV City Hall at 26 Corte Madera Avenue and the Sweetwater Music Hall. If you have questions about this project or any of the buildings, people, or businesses mentioned please reach out to Natalie Snoyman, Supervising Librarian and Archivist of the History Room, or Jim Welte, Executive Director of the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce.
MVLY signifies an aspect of the early and ongoing commercial character of Mill Valley, including the connection between the town and its region to the 19th century lumber trade. Moreover, the property is integrally associated both with Corte Madera Creek and with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, the courses of which were manifest in the original and early form of the property and its structures. Storm damage in 1914 and 1925 led to some necessary renovations but, overall, the Lumber Yard retains the same building footprints it has for over a century.
In 2012, local residents Matt and Jan Mathews purchased the property and while they had intended to keep a lumber yard and hardware operation on site, the economics of restoring the historic buildings and the lack of demand from those potential tenants forced them to rethink their plans. The Mathews transformed the space into a pedestrian village where micro-retail abuts local eateries as well as art and work studios. For the first time in the property’s long history, it no longer houses an operating lumber yard but it is now a community gathering space where individuals can shop, eat, and enjoy the scenic and historical outdoor setting while taking in views of Mt. Tamalpais and the creek running throughout the property.
COVID-19 has undeniably affected the Lumber Yard. When discussing the effects of the pandemic, Jan Mathews commented, “As with all businesses during COVID, the Lumber Yard and our tenants had significant struggles. However, we all worked together to get through the challenging times, and the community has shown their support as well! Having a beautiful outdoor space, where people can get together with friends, families and coworkers, has been a silver lining for everyone during this time.”
Matt Mathews added, “Mill Valley Lumber Yard’s motto is ‘Craftsmanship and Community since 1892’ and we look forward to fostering this intention for generations to come.” For a full list of all current shops, eateries, and studios, check out the Mill Valley Lumber Yard website.