Thursday, May. 23, 2019

Realignment of White's Hill Brings Food From Farm-to-Table

By Carol Acquaviva · July 27, 2018

September 24, 1938 ribbon cutting of SFD Blvd. after realignment <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

September 24, 1938 ribbon cutting of SFD Blvd. after realignment


San Anselmo Herald, September 22, 1938 <span>&copy;  </span> Cars heading west on Sir Francis Drake Blvd from Fairfax, c.1940 <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

We use the phrase farm-to-table to describe the trend of eating locally-sourced food, connected directly back to its farmer or producer.

Similarly, in the 1920s and 1930s, a farm-to-market highway was a way to better connect produce-rich West Marin to the more densely-populated county interior. In 1938, the stop-gap to this concept was the steepness of the White’s Hill Grade, between Fairfax and Woodacre, making the journey of heavy commercial trucks filled with farm goods impractical at best and dangerous at worst.

This critical, steep section of the Drake highway needed to be widened, rebuilt and realigned.

[Side note: The idea of utilizing the abandoned railroad tunnel at Bothin as a six lane viaduct for auto traffic would have been too costly. Although, a short time after this realignment project was completed, the new road had to be temporarily closed due to rapid sinking and landslides. The Bothin tunnel was a temporary fix until the White’s Hill slide was repaired and the road reopened.]

This project was backed by the Sir Francis Drake Highway Improvement Association, and funds secured by the Board of Supervisors, and state and federal government to improve this farm-to-market highway, cutting down on the farmers’ transportation costs. The Whites Hill Grade incline, which had been as steep as 14% in some parts, was reduced to a more manageable 7.5% grade. The project took about 6 months at a cost of $600,000, or $10 million in today's dollars.

Upon completion, a ceremony organized by booster organization Marvelous Marin was held on September 24, 1938, to commemorate this realignment of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The event spotlighted County Surveyor Rodney Messner, and Supervisors Gail Apperson and Frederick Thompson for their contributions. In addition, “four pretty page girls, dressed in the costumes of the day of Sir Francis Drake” held the pink ribbons to be ceremoniously cut by the officials. Speeches – “but not too many of them” – were addressed to the throng of spectators.

Afterwards, the crowd gathered at Bate’s Grove in Woodacre to enjoy entertainment, including Frank Whitney, “the cowboy singer.” Hundreds of attendees enjoyed a barbecue. No doubt the meal was farm-to-table.

References:

“Coast Improvement Body Will Back Marin Supervisors In Road Alignment Project.” Petaluma Argus-Courier, May 20, 1937.

“Huge Celebration Marks White’s Hill Realignment Completion on Saturday.” San Anselmo Herald, September 22, 1938

Livingston, D.S. “The Case of the Disappearing Highway” The Fax, October 29, 1985.

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Nick Fain wrote 10 months ago

Remnants of the old roadway are still visible on White Hill Trail which begins West of the Brown Bridge on SFD. Pavement is still visible at the start of the trail. It disappears where the more modern road cut begins. There is more old pavement on the west side of the hill, visible beyond the fence (on private property).  I believe it was originally called Olema Rd (?). There's not much to see now, but I try to imagine vehicles of another age struggling up that old road back in the day.

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Carol Acquaviva wrote 10 months ago

Thank you for your comment, Nick!  -Carol

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