Youth In Arts San Rafael logo

917 "C" Street
San Rafael, California 94901
(415) 457-4878
yia@youthinarts.org

Davidson Mural Celebrates San Rafael History

Matthew Jackett is a junior at Marin Academy, interested in history and writing. As a 2012 summer intern for the Marin History Museum, Matthew wrote a series of blog posts on the mural installed on Youth in Arts refurbished facade at 917 C Street. This is the fourth post in that series. Historic images from the Marin History Museum collection.

Section of Mural by Davidson students

In this section of the mural the El Camino theater is the main feature. Next to the movie theater in this part of the panel is an ice cream store that used to be a main attraction on Fourth Street, which is now the location of the restaurant Sabor of Spain, down the block from Youth in Arts.

Across the mural runs a strip of film, centered around a depiction of the “El Camino” Theater that used to be located on 4th Street in downtown San Rafael. This is a recognition of Marin’s place in the film industry stretching all the way back to the 19th Century, when Thomas Edison mounted a camera onto the gravity railroad car on Mt. Tamalpais in one of the earliest movies made, in March 1898. Eadweard Muybridge was another film pioneer who made many movies featuring the landscape of San Rafael, Sausalito, and Mt. Tamalpais.
The film industry in Marin continued to flourish, and even Charlie Chaplin came to work in San Rafael for a year. In 1912, as the movie business in Marin grew, the California Motion Picture Corporation, decided to form a movie studio in San Rafael. “Salomy Jane” is their earliest and last surviving film. They produced many silent films, centered around Beatrix Michelena, the wife of George Middleton, the studio director. After a few years, the studio went bankrupt and the movies were abandoned in a vault that would one day catch on fire, and most of the films would be lost.

In 1917, Leon Forrest Douglass, a long time San Rafael resident, produced the first colored film in America. He presented the technology to film companies and got a patent for it, but unfortunately, movie studios were unwilling to invest in new equipment. However, with the invention of the Technicolor process a few years later, Douglass’s patents were repeatedly violated and he won a large sum of money as a result.

After the failure of the California Motion Picture Corporation and the other local film studios in San Rafael and Fairfax, the film business slowed down in Marin. While many films were made in the county, the next big name to visit was George Lucas.
Lucas made the decision to film “American Graffiti” in San Rafael, the beginning of his involvement in Marin County. After the success of “Star Wars”, Lucas moved to San Anselmo and made the decision that his new film center would be in Marin. He financed the move to San Rafael and began working on the sequel to his first Star Wars movie. He would later shoot scenes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in Marin, and a scene from “Return of the Jedi” in Muir Woods. Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic bring the modern film to Marin, which has always been at the head of the industry.

El Camino, the theater depicted in the mural, was the premier theater in Marin County, opened in 1928. It had an organ, an orchestra pit, and elegant design, murals and furnishing in its lobby. The El Camino soon became the theater of choice as talkies emerged and the Depression began. As movie attendance went up, El Camino became even more and more successful, and the owners, the Blumenfelds, began building and buying theaters across Marin, including the Orpheus, the Sequoia, and the Lark.

The El Camino was closed in 1953 as television became popular. Some of its architecture can still be seen in the office buildings along Lootens Street (the theater was at Fourth & Lootens).

El Camino Theater, from the Marin History Museum collection

Film has always been a rich part of Marin’s history, San Rafael in particular. The presence of the theater and the film strip in the mural pays recognition to the rich culture it has given the county.

The San Rafael history mural at Youth in Arts was created with support from the County of Marin, the Fenwick Foundation, the MacPhail Family and the Marin Community Foundation. Youth in Arts will host a public reception and celebration of the mural on Friday, September 14, from 5-8 p.m. The event will include a dedication ceremony at 6 p.m. and the opening of a new exhibit on the creation of the mural by Davidson students.

More History Behind the San Rafael Mural

Matthew Jackett is a junior at Marin Academy, interested in history and writing. As a 2012 summer intern for the Marin History Museum, Matthew wrote a series of blog posts on the mural installed on Youth in Arts refurbished facade at 917 C Street. This is the third post in that series. Historic images from the Marin History Museum collection.

Section of mural by Davidson students

San Rafael in the late 1800s

In the far right panel of the mural, a horse is depicted standing in front of the Bay View Livery and Sales Stables, the building that is currently Youth in Arts. The building has been owned since the 1870s by the MacPhail family, who now leases the space to Youth in Arts. In the front of the building is a Tally-Ho wagon with Neil MacPhail, the original owner of the livery, riding in the front.

Louise Arner Boyd

Above the building are three historic famous San Rafael residents. On the far left is Louise Arner Boyd, famed heiress, Marin native, and Arctic Explorer. She inherited her fortune from her father, who made his money as a mining tycoon. After her parents’ death, she began to spend her millions on lavish parties hosted in her home in San Rafael. She then began using her money to explore the Arctic region, and at the age of 64, became the first woman to fly over the North Pole.

The man in the middle is Billy Shannon, who owned a famous boxing training gym on Fourth Street from 1906 to 1914. It was called Billy Shannon’s Villa, and it was the choice destination for celebrity boxers at the time, such as Joe Gans, the first African-American boxing champion. Shannon provided lodging and training for the boxers while his wife would cook and feed them. On the weekends and holidays, boxing matches would be held and crowds would take the West End train to come see the fights. When boxing was outlawed temporarily in California, Billy Shannon’s Villa was forced to close, but he left San Rafael residents with the memories of the fights and the celebrity boxers, and he became a cherished memory of San Rafael at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Eleanor Garatti

The third member of the trio is Eleanor Garatti, who was Marin’s first Olympic gold medalist. She trained at San Rafael’s Municipal Bath House, and broke records across the country at swim meets, with the trips funded by local merchants. She won the gold medal in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam for the U.S. freestyle relay team, as well as a silver medal in the 100 meter freestyle. Four years later, she once again won the gold medal in the relay and this time won the bronze in the 100 meter freestyle at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. When she returned home, huge crowds came to celebrate along the train route from Sausalito to San Rafael. She became a local hero, hailed by the mayor of San Rafael as “Marin’s sweetest daughter.”

At the left of this mural panel are also two well-known San Rafael architectural landmarks–the historic Falkirk Mansion and the Marin Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

This part of the mural shows the past of San Rafael and all that has made it what it is today. Youth in Arts building itself can be seen, growing from a livery to a center that gives children the opportunity to explore the history of their city and express themselves through an artistic medium.

Read “History Behind the Mural, Part 1″
Read “History Behind the Mural, Part 2″

The San Rafael history mural at Youth in Arts was created with support from the County of Marin, the Fenwick Foundation, the MacPhail Family and the Marin Community Foundation. Youth in Arts will host a public reception and celebration of the mural on Friday, September 14, from 5-8 p.m. The event will include a dedication ceremony at 6 p.m. and the opening of a new exhibit on the creation of the mural by Davidson students.

Continued: The History Behind the Mural

Matthew Jackett is a junior at Marin Academy, interested in history and writing. As a 2012 summer intern for the Marin History Museum, Matthew wrote a series of blog posts on the mural by Davidson Middle School students recently installed on Youth in Arts refurbished facade at 917 C Street. This is the second post in that series.

Section of Mural by Davidson students

The next section of the mural includes the Spanish Mission, the cattle and dairy farming, and the changes in regime from Spain to Mexico to United States.
Read more…

Music & Movement for Incredible Kids!

As the school year approaches, we are getting ready to provide amazing arts opportunities for students of varied abilities through our VSA arts program (Vision, Strength, Accessibility!). Once again, as for the past 30 years, Youth in Arts is working with the Marin County Office of Education to provide arts classes in 30 Special Day Classrooms around Marin. Mentor Artist Rachael Bouch-Dimondstein’s work at Vallecito Elementary is an outstanding example of the beauty created in a classroom when arts are incorporated: Read more…

The History Behind YIA’s San Rafael Mural

Matthew Jackett is a junior at Marin Academy, interested in history and writing. As a 2012 summer intern for the Marin History Museum, Matthew wrote a series of blog posts on the mural installed on Youth in Arts refurbished facade at 917 C Street. This is the first post in that series.

Section of YIA Mural created by Davidson students

Youth in Arts’ newest project allowing students to explore the history of Marin in an artistic medium is a mural placed on the outside of their building. The mural was created by students at Davidson Middle School with the help of Brooke Toczylowski, an artist who works with Youth in Arts.

The mural works inward from two ends chronologically, with the center panels representing the present and future of San Rafael. The beginning of the history of Marin and San Rafael is the Native American Miwoks, and that is what the first panel of the mural depicts.
Read more…

End of Summer at Marinwood Camp

Gabrielle Gamboa finished out a summer of wonderful art-making at Marinwood Camp with four new activities. If you’d like to bring Gabrielle to your classroom this year to teach these and other visual arts activities, contact Suzanne, Director of Artists in Schools!
Read more…