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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.

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