A Mystery Solved

A  zig-zag road appears on the face of Red Hill just above the Hub in several of the San Anselmo Historical Museum’s photographs dating from 1908-1910. It is not the zig-zag road still evident on the west side of the hill, constructed by Dr. Henry DuBois about 1892. It also appears to be more than a foot or cow-path.

The story behind the road was unknown until the discovery of an April 14, 1893 article that appeared in the Sausalito News.

Ex-Sheriff Tunstead is ornamenting the naturally attractive piece of land surrounding the beautiful mound that stands near San Anselmo Station with olive trees. The summit of this handsome residence site has been reached by a wagon road over the least possible grade.”

In January 1894, the Sausalito News reported on the sale of the property.

The popular and wealthy President of the San Francisco Stock Brewery, F. H. Bruns [Henry F. Bruns], is grading the foundation and will put up a costly residence on the land recently bought from ex-Sheriff Tunstead. Like all the country surrounding San Anselmo, the spot selected by Mr. Bruns is an ideal one for a country home. It is in close proximity to the beautiful property of F. B. Latham, affording a grand view of Ross Valley and the mountains surrounding it.”

Bruns Home Above the Hub, circa 1908

Today, the approximately four acre lot above the busy intersection, with the dense eucalyptus grove going to the summit, seems an unlikely site for a “luxury home.”

A few years after Bruns bought the property, James and Mary Tunstead built a home on the adjacent lot to the east and planted more olives trees. The Tunsteads and Bruns probably planted the eucalyptus trees we see today.

The Bruns home was threatened by fire in October 1908 and the elderly Henry Bruns had to be rescued after he was overcome with exhaustion while assisting firefighters in beating back the flames with wet sacks. He died in 1914 at age 84. In 1924, a corner of the home caught fire from flying embers from a fire across the valley. By about 1930, only a small single story structure remained where the Bruns home originally stood.

Old Olive on Red Hill. Credit Charles Kennard

Charlie Kennard, San Anselmo resident, watershed habitat restorer and professional photographer, made a hot, steep and slippery climb on Red Hill in September 2011 and confirmed the presence of about 20 old multi-trunked olive trees. Many have trunks up to 14 inches across. In some cases, the trunks have broken and new shoots have come up. There is a clear row of the trees going straight up the hill at the eastern edge of the eucalyptus grove, and at the bottom alternating with the eucalyptus.

Old Olive Trees on Red Hill. Credit Charles Kennard

Kennard also found fairly convincing evidence of a road grade.

Possible Old Road Grade on Red Hill. Credit Charles Kennard

Below is a modern day photograph taken by Kennard on which he has superimposed the 1908 photograph. The right vertical line is the location of the edge of the euculytpus grove, and the lower part is a line of olives. The left vertical line is a drainage. The oval black line is the location of another grove of olives.

Red Hill. Credit Charles Kennard

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