Novato circa 1890's. Oldest Picture of Novato.

Novato circa 1890’s. Oldest Picture of Novato.


1776 – 1899: Land Grants and Farming

1776 Coast Miwoks made contact with Spanish settlers at Olompali.
1839 Rancho de Novato land grant was given to Fernando Feliz by Mexican Governor Alvarado. Today’s downtown Novato is near the center of the original 8,870 acre rancho. In 1844, Feliz sold the Rancho to Jacob Leese.
1840 Rancho de San Jose, now Ignacio, was granted to Juan Ignacio Antonio Pacheco. Pacheco had claimed and lived on the land since 1835. Of the four original land grantees only the Pacheco family still live on their property in 2014.
Rancho Corte Madera de Novato, in current San Marin area, was granted to John Martin. He sold it in 1861 to William Hicks.
1843 Rancho Olompali granted to Camilo Ynitia, the only native American to receive such a grant. The remains of his adobe home can be seen at Olompali State Park. In 1852 Ynitia sold ¾ of the Rancho to James Black.
1846 A skirmish, known as the Battle of the Bear Flag Revolt, between Californians and General Fremont’s men occurs at Rancho Olompali. Manuel Cantua, a Mexican soldier was killed.
1848 California became part of the U.S. as a result of Mexican-American War.
1849 On Sept. 15th, Marin County Court of Sessions divided the county into four townships – Sausalito, Bolinas, San Rafael and Novato.
1850’s to early 1900’s Blackpoint (now Black Point) was regarded as an important shipping point for livestock and lumber. Old Town was located at present Nave Shopping Center. The first location of the Postmaster’s House, built in 1850, (now the Novato Museum) was on Yukon Way and South Novato Blvd.
1856 After passing through several hands Rancho de Novato was sold to Joseph Sweetser and Francis DeLong. It consisted of 15,000 acres. The two men planted 44,000 fruit trees, the largest apple orchard in U.S. They also planted pine and cypress trees along Novato Blvd.
Post Office established in Novato. Henry Jones was the first Postmaster.
1859 One-room school and church built where the Shell Station at DeLong & Redwood is now located.
1861 Charlotte Haven, first person buried in Novato (Pioneer) Cemetery.
1862 Aug 12 – Novato School District established for grades 1-8.
1863 Mary Black married Dr. Galen Burdell, a dentist in San Francisco. Mary’s father, James Black, gave her Rancho Olompali as a wedding gift. It includes 8,877 acres and 900 head of cattle. In 1867 the Burdells moved to Rancho Olompali.
1865 Sweetser/DeLong mansion built at Center Rd. and Wilson Ave. The house is also known as the Trumbull mansion.
1875 2nd Novato Grammar School built for $1,800 on 3 acres donated by Sweetser &
DeLong near the first school on Redwood Blvd. It was moved in 1922, to be a furniture store at 7400 Redwood Blvd., which has been since razed.
1879 Sweetser sold his interest in Rancho De Novato to DeLong except for 1 square mile, now Downtown Novato.
Northwestern Pacific Railroad came to Novato, which changed the focus of Novato to “New Town,” now known as “Old Town.” First Train Depot built, it was later moved behind Loustaunau Hall and used as livery stable. It is still located behind the Druids Hall on Reichert Ave.
This was the beginning of many commercial buildings being built along Grant Ave. Still in existence: DeBorba’s (1909), Loustaunau Hall (1899), now Druid’s Bldg., Blacksmith’s “Fashion Shop” (1893) at Grant & Reichert, and Scott’s General Store (1890.)
1885 Francis DeLong died. His son, Frank Coye DeLong, inherited the mansion and ranch.
1886 Joseph Sweetser died in Florida and is buried in Pioneer Cemetery.
1888-1889 Novato Home and Farm Company sets up the first major land development that sold small lots and parcels of 5 to 10 acres. They built the Novato House Hotel/Saloon/Livery at the eastern end of Grant. In 1899 it was purchased by Capt. Hiribarren and his wife because the coming of the railroad in 1879 cut into Captain Hiribarren’s water transport business.
1890 Alexander Scott built a general store on the corner of Grant and Sherman. There was a large open room on the second floor where plays and meetings were held. As a result the building was known as Scott’s Hall. It is the oldest building in old town Novato at the same location.
1892 First Catholic Church, Our Lady of Loretto, built on South Novato Blvd. The church burned down in 1936.
Carlile house at DeLong & Reichert built. Today it is the Chamber of Commerce Office.
1893 Frank Coye DeLong filed for bankruptcy. Creditors set up the Novato Land Company. Robert Hatch was appointed manager and the rancho became profitable again. It was divided into 7 dairy ranches, leased by tenants, and each identified by a letter, A,B,C,D,E,F, & H.
Atherton house built by John and Ellen Atherton. Today the house is located on Redwood Blvd.
1895 Volunteer Fire Dept. organized. Noon horn signaled everyone to go home to lunch.
1896 Novato Presbyterian Church built at 901 Sherman. In 1963 it was sold to the City of Novato and is now the City Hall
1899 Loustanau Hall, a saloon and social hall, was built by John (Jean) and Mary Alice Loustanau on the corner of Grant and Reichert. Named “the Club” it was the largest recreational hall in the county. It was used by many local organizations for meetings and social events. In 1937 it was purchased by the Druids.
Downtown Novato 1915

Downtown Novato circa 1915


1900 – 1949: Building A Community

1902 Novato’s first newspaper, Marin County Banner begun by John Bond. It stopped publication in 1919.
1903 2nd train depot built, first depot moved behind Druids Hall
1905 Robert Trumbull Sr. replaced Robert Hatch as manager of Novato Land Co. He and his wife, Edith Morrow Brown, from Petaluma moved into the former Sweetser/DeLong home. They purchased the home in 1916 when Novato Land Co. sold off their holdings.
1906 Neilsen-Simmons House built by the Neilsens, an Ignacio ranching family. It was admired for its impressive detailing. In 1931, the house was purchaed by the William and Laura Simmons . The house is still standing at the corner of DeLong and Sherman.
1907 Flatiron Bld. and Abraham Yelmorini’s Saloon built, the former to block view from the train station of other saloons on Grant Ave.
Novato Sanatorium, the first hospital, was established in the Oliver House on Railroad Ave.
1908 Telephone company established by Will Cain. There were five telephone subscribers: railway depot, cheese factory, Dr.Kuser, Mr. Trumbull and Scott’s store.
July 3 – Train wreck in Novato – one person killed.
1909 DeBorba’s Saloon built on Grant Ave. by Antonio (Tony) DeBorba Jr. It is still owned and operated by the DeBorba family. Tony’s father owned a dairy ranch at Deer Island.
1910 – 1930 Many chicken ranches, dairies & vineyards started.
1910 Carlile’s hardware store built at 815-817 Grant Ave. by Charles Carlile. Operated until his death in 1961.
August 10th – Train wreck in Ignacio – six people killed and Will Cain injured.
1911 Electric Company established by Will Cain. In 1912 Will and his brother Al Cain established the Novato Water Company. In 1916 incorporated as Novato Utilities Co to include electricity, water and phone.
1913 Novato Bank was chartered and located at 826 Grant. It was financed by James Black Burdell and built by Frank Silva who owned the property.
1915 Chamber of Commerce formed.
1917 Post Office housed next to Marin Bank on Grant (first permanent location).
Pini Grocery Store built on Grant by Henry Pini.
New state road, Hwy 101, built through Novato (Redwood Blvd.)
Third depot built after the second burned.
Petaluma Bridge built
1918 The Novato Land Company, owners of the former Rancho Novato then Delong Ranch, started liquidating by subdividing into smaller farms. Sweetser Subdivision #1 which ran from First to Seventh Streets was the first sold.
1922 Third Novato Grammar School, also known as Grant Ave. School, built on Redwood Blvd., where McDonalds is now. Lulu Sutton was the principal. It was demolished in 1959 as it did not meet earthquake standards.
Pini Feed Mill built.
Novato Advance begun by Wm. Hanen at 868 Grant Ave.
Nave Garage and Novato Bakery open.
Concrete sidewalks on part of Grant Ave.
1923 Community House dedicated, April 11th.
May 23rd Ignacio Pacheco adobe home in Nicasio burns down.
Paving of Grant Ave. (aka Main Street).
1925 Novato Sanitary District established.
Novato Library established on second floor of Community House.
1926 Novato Fire District formed.
1928 Sears Point Toll Road, also called the Black Point Cutoff, is opened. It is a private road to Vallejo.
1932 Hamilton Field construction begins
1934 State buys Sears Point Toll Road and it becomes Hwy 37.
1935 Dedication of Hamilton Army Air Field.
1936 Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church burned and rebuilt on Grant Ave. and Second Street.
1946 Novato Airport built by Paul Binford and Jack Lewis.
1947 Novato Theater opened by Alfred Bowman. Theater closes in the 1980’s.
1948 North Marin Water District formed.
1948 – 1949 Sanitary District Treatment Plant built.
Redwood Blvd., Hwy 101, in Novato widened to 4 lanes.
Novato's Grant Avenue in the 1950's

Novato’s Grant Avenue in the 1950’s



1950 – 2000: Growing as a Suburb

1953 Stafford Dam and Lake completed.
1954 Novato schools unified.
1957 Novato High School opens. Students no longer go to San Rafael.
1958 Northwestern Pacific ends passenger service. Hwy 37 widened to 4 lanes to Sears Point and new bridge built over Petaluma River.
1960 January 20, Novato incorporated as a city.
1960 – 1961 Novato’s first city council formed. Wayne Womak first mayor.
1961 On January 1st, Police Dept. becomes a City agency and was first housed in the railroad depot.
1963 Novato Presbyterian Church sold to the city to become City Hall.
1968 San Marin High School opened.
1969 Burdell Mansion at Olompali destroyed by fire.
1972 Postmaster’s House moved from So. Novato Blvd. & Yukon Way to present site on DeLong.
1974 U.S. Highway 101 changed to present route bypassing downtown Novato.
1975 Hamilton Airfield closed.
1976 Novato History Museum established and Novato Historical Guild formed.
1977 Redwood Blvd. received a facelift to increase business after highway bypassed town.
1982 Fireman’s Fund moved into new headquarters on San Marin Drive.
1985 Ignacio overpass built.
1995 City of Novato begins development of Hamilton Field
1992 Vintage Oaks shopping center developed.
1999 Buck Institute for Research on Ageing built on Mt. Burdell.
Grant Avenue - Old Town - 2014

Grant Avenue – Old Town – 2008



2000 – Present: Moving Into the Future

2004 Grant Avenue facelift.
2008 Millworks opened in Old Town Novato.
2010 January 20th – Novato’s 50th birthday.
May 12th – Hamilton Field Museum dedication.
2014 City moves into new administrative offices in Old Town Novato.

History is a work in progress

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