Ed. Note: The Mountain Home Inn has been a Mill Valley icon since Swiss German immigrant couple Claus and Martha Meyer, who were homesick for their native Alps, opened it over a century ago. As owner Susan Cunningham says, “Among towering redwoods and mountain scenery, we’ve carved out a place that feels like another world—just 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. This scenic drive will take you through time to Mt. Tamalpais, the getaway of choice for 19th century San Franciscans.”
By Andrew ChamingsSFGATE’s Editor-at-Large –excerpts below. Read the full story here.

Long before the asphalt of the Panoramic Highway moved motorists over the mountain, a winding railroad known as the crookedest in the world climbed nearly 300 turns from Mill Valley to the summit and returned passengers through a rudimentary and heart-stopping railway system powered only by gravity. At one of the train stops, atop a ridgeline over Muir Woods, Claus and Martha built their home and refreshment bar for hikers making their way to the top and back, a place to rest their bones and take in the view with some hot soup and lemonade. The Meyers sold housemade candy at Christmastime and soon added a dining room on the mountain ledge. By the late 1920s, the crooked railway was abandoned as the mountain road was paved for automobiles — a change that would prove tragic for Claus.

Learning to handle the new technology of a motor car in 1930 was no easy feat, and it was even harder on the side of a 2,500-foot mountain. That summer, Clause and Martha were reportedly giving their new Model T a spin when Clause reversed over the steep bank, sending the car and the couple plunging down the mountainside. The couple somehow survived the horror, but Clause died three weeks later of a stroke, having never recovered from the crash. Martha died not long after.

In the years after Claus and Martha Meyers passed in the 1930s, the inn changed hands numerous times in the following years, largely maintaining its German theme. In the ‘60s, notable guests included Goldie Hawn and the Grateful Dead.

The property fell into the hands of a German American war hero later played on screen by Christian Bale. Dieter Dengler was a German-born U.S. Navy bomber pilot who was shot down over Laos, captured and imprisoned in the notorious Pathet Lao prison camp during the Vietnam War. After six months of torture, Dengler somehow escaped, becoming the only American to ever do so and survive the prison. After 23 days on the run in the jungle on the shores of the Mekong River, hallucinating through near starvation, Dengler was rescued by a U.S. Air Force plane. His story was adapted into Werner Herzog’s 2006 epic “Rescue Dawn.”

Once back on American soil, Dengler bought the old Mountain Home Inn to live in peace, away from the world.

Around the same time, another Vietnam vet and former military rescue pilot, Edward Cunningham, was living in Marin. Cunningham had spent time on an Air Force base in England, and while there, he fell in love with old British pubs. After failed endeavors importing British race cars and opening an art gallery in Sausalito, Cunningham was looking for something new.

“He was broke and living off peanut butter,” his wife, Susan Cunningham, tells SFGATE. (FULL STORY HERE)

It was around then Edward Cunningham noticed the construction of a very un-California restaurant and hotel at the base of Mount Tam — the Pelican Inn at Muir Beach. The pub was built beam by beam from materials shipped over from England and Scotland, and it still has the bona fide look of a Tudor watering hole today, despite being built in 1979. Cunningham befriended the Pelican’s creator, Charles Felix, as he continued searching for his own old place to run.

One day, while jogging out on the Panoramic Highway, Cunningham saw the old Mountain Home Inn, closed and in a bad state. Dengler had not been able to keep the historic restaurant open. “He had put up a ‘for sale’ sign,” Susan says. “And my husband walked over and just bought it on the spot.”

The Cunninghams spent years making the inn what it is today. Due to the success of the Mountain Home Inn, Susan and Edward went on to eventually run the Pelican Inn.

Edward Cunningham died in 2022. Susan still owns the inn and lives down the hill in Mill Valley. She looks back on their time opening the Mountain Home 40 ago with fondness. “We had some struggles, but it was our baby,” she says. “It has a special place in our hearts.”

The Mountain Home Inn is open 365 days a year, at 810 Panoramic Highway in Mill Valley.