Agatha Court, a small subdivision of 3.2 acres and 16 homes off of Saunders Avenue, was formerly the site of an apiary and a lovely garden. Melchior and Mary Agatha Vogel, natives of Switzerland, immigrated to America with their children in 1871. After a number of years in Michigan, the family came to the Santa Clara area where Melchior established an apiary. In 1887, Melchior and Mary purchased land in San Anselmo, bordered by the creek on two sides, and moved their family, household furnishings and the bees.
The Marin Journal of June 2, 1887 covered the Vogel’s arrival though incorrectly naming the San Anselmo location Fairfax:
“Mr. Vogel started out from Santa Clara to find a location suited to bees, and combining other requisites. He found everything he wanted focused in this spot at Fairfax [sic], and he is thoroughly pleased. I am in the wilderness, he says, enjoying all the exquisite beauties of the surrounding park, a lovely stream ripples by my door, affording me the best of water, daily trains land me in the city in one hour, the air is pure, soil rich, surroundings picturesque, and what more could I desire? Mr. Vogel has a daughter who teaches in San Francisco, and a son who is a builder of cable roads. He says Fairfax [sic] is admirably adapted to the production of honey, and he is sure his bees will do well. He had the misfortune to lose about 25 per cent of them in transportation, the swarms being broken open in the city, and his only safety was in destroying those that were liberated. He finds the buckeye, mustard, rape flower, and other succulent’s plentiful…He will experiment at Fairfax [sic] with the sain foin or esparsette, a kind of clover, which in its habits resembles alfalfa, but will stand drought and cold better. It is very highly esteemed in the old country. If it does well here, Mr. Vogel believes that ranchmen will find it profitable, and he will be glad to show it, and furnish seed.”
Nearby were Bernard Brennfleck’s new home and nursery growing grounds and the Chiappari’s flower gardens. Architect S.W. Bugbee designed a home for the Vogels. The 1919 Sanborn Map shows the house facing Saunders Avenue, several outbuildings, a 25 foot windmill and a 30 foot water tower.
Melchior Vogel died four years after moving to San Anselmo, and Mary died in 1900. Son Charles, his wife and son, and daughter Agatha are listed at the residence in the 1900 census. With Charles’s early death in 1903, Agatha became the sole owner and resident of the San Anselmo property. She was a San Francisco school teacher for many years prior to her retirement. She developed a much-admired garden on her property.
In 1926, Agatha ran into financial difficulties and was unable to meet her mortgage payments. Prior to foreclosure, Benjamin H. Dibblee of Ross purchased the property. It was then subdivided and real estate agents Kent & Minto offered the lots for sale. The subdivision preserved features of the old garden with shade and fruit trees, and a smaller home was built for Agatha where she died in 1928 at age 75.
Lots sold for $1,375 and sales appear to have been steady during the 1930s, and by 1950 there were homes on all of the lots. Local contractor Otis H. Smith built several of the homes, including a model home in 1930.
Today, the subdivision is truly a coveted neighborhood with charming homes and lush gardens on a quiet cul-de-sac. The residents, with a mix of young and old, have celebrated the 4th of July for the past 42 years with a block party!