For some people, the thought of weeding through thousands of photos and digging up enough historical data to fill a book might seem tedious and daunting. For Judy Coy, it was a delight—and the end result is a book that dives deep into San Anselmo’s history.
“It was fun; I enjoyed doing this,” said Coy, a self-described “research addict.”
The six-month project did pose some challenges, however. For instance, Arcadia has a fairly strict template, for the sake of uniformity, that dictates page count and number of photos.
“I wanted to make sure we had enough photos before I signed the contract,” Coy said.
Coy had a bit of a head start, having served on the San Anselmo Historical Commission for more than a decade and being a 32-year resident. She also currently serves as the chairperson of the nonprofit San Anselmo Historical Society.
When not doing research, Coy acts as docent at the San Anselmo Historical Museum, writes articles, catalogs the museum’s collection, develops exhibits and helps town staff and others find answers to their historical questions.
Still, she sought out input and photos from fellow local historians to create a thorough history of the town.
And the timing was right for an updated look at the town’s history. Author and historian Barry Spitz’s book on the same topic had just gone out of print and was written more than a decade ago.
Arcadia describes the town’s story as such:
San Anselmo has been a crossroads if not a center of activity from the days when the Coast Miwok inhabited the valley and fished the fresh waters of the creek. Red Hill, a town landmark, was the meeting point of three 1840s Mexican land grants. The rancho days had come to an end by 1875, when the North Pacific Coast Railroad completed its line, with its tracks branching east and west at San Anselmo. Railroad officials encouraged real estate activity, but it was not until the San Francisco Theological Seminary was completed in 1892 that the town began to grow. Incorporation followed in 1907, after refugees from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire built permanent homes. The population grew in the years following World War II, but San Anselmo has remained a small, family town.
The book also provides some insights into little-known events, such as how the Miracle Mile got its name: In 1948, the Highland Inner City Development Association lobbied both San Rafael and San Anselmo leaders to rename the stretch between the cities after the trains stopped running in the area.
The book is available at many local merchants and the library and the proceeds help fun the San Anselmo Historical Society.
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