Another Marin town that was at the center of lumber industry in the 19th Century, Corte Madera started as part of the Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio. The Rancho was granted to John Reed, and Irishman who came to California via Mexico. He built one of the first sawmills in Marin County in 1834 and it supplied wood for the San Francisco Presidio, shipping it from the Corte Madera Creek and across the Bay.
In the late 1800’s, 1885, a New England lawyer named Frank Morrison Pixley, was given 160 acres by Reed’s daughter, Hilarita. Pixley became a San Francisco lawyer, involved himself in local politics and founded a magazine called The Argonaut. Writers for the magazine included Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce. The Pixley family was credited with creating Corte Madera’s first subdivision and with developing downtown. Corte Madera incorporated in 1916. Population continued to grow, and exploded after the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937.
The square around the train station was the original center of Corte Madera. Established in 1916 Railroad Park is located in the northwest quadrant of the old train station square. It was renamed Menke Park in the early 1950s after the town leased the property from the railroad and took over maintenance of the land. Businesses and homes constructed from the early 1800’s through 1930 still stand in the old part of west Corte Madera, giving it a charming, small town appeal. Today the park is a beautifully landscaped area with colorful hanging flowers pots and bordered by a walkway with antique lampposts.
Besides the older part of town, Corte Madera has other distinctly different feeling neighborhoods. It is home to more “modest” family homes as well and multi-million dollar estates. The area called Christmas Tree Hill was subdivided at the turn of the 20th century into little 25′ x 25′ lots for use as tent sites on the weekends. After the 1906 earthquake, many of these tent sites were used to build permanent homes, where some of them remain to this day. Closer to Highway 101, homes were built in the 1950’s including the subdivision of Madera Gardens. These mostly single story homes have a more homogenous look to them than the older parts of town. Hidden in the middle of Madera Gardens is a small lake with waterfront homes available. Nearby Chapman Park is an eclectic mix of cottages and fine homes nestled into the hills. In East Corte Madera, the Mariner Cove subdivision was built in the late 50’s, early 60’s and features some homes with bay front locations, or set along the San Clemente Creek.
Corte Madera is home to two significant shopping malls, (The Village and The Town Center) the largest single screen cinema in Marin and several parks. Sometimes considered at the end of the “easy” commute to San Francisco, it is also where the weather starts to turn and become warmer than Marin’s more southern towns. Known for its Fourth of July parade that it shares with its “twin city” Larkspur, thousands show up for the old fashioned parade and festival in the Town Park. Sharing, along with much of Marin, an excellent school system and access to outdoor activities, Corte Madera is a lovely place to call home.
- Population: 9,253
- Households: Approximately 3,793
- Median resident age: 46
- Average listing price in 2015: $1,330,000
- Average Sales price in 2015: $1,385,000 ($737/per square foot)