Art & Garden Center/Brick Kiln
Located at the junction of the future Tiburon Blvd. and San Rafael Avenue, the earliest settlement on the Tiburon Peninsula was known as Hilarita, as was the dairy nearby. Hilarita Reed Lyford was the heiress to the ranches at the end of the Peninsula and operated the Hilarita Dairy located at the site of the present Reed School. Dating to the 1860′s a brick kiln was part of the settlement of working class homes and small businesses along the shore of Richardson Bay and the Lagoon.
The San Francisco & North Pacific Railroad came to Tiburon in 1884 and established the Hilarita Station at this small community. The railroad also carried the bricks from the kiln to construction sites throughout the North Bay and by ferryboat to San Francisco.
Next to the kiln was a one room bunk house for the workers. After the kiln ceased operation the bunk house was converted to a residential cottage. The cottage was later enlarged and subdivided to accommodate farm families. Without building codes builders were able to use any materials at hand. There was no foundation and oil lamps and candles provided what lighting there was. A septic system took care of sanitary needs.
In 1944 Helen Newman, and her husband artist William Newman, purchased the cottage and an acre of land from the Reed heirs. Ardent conservationists and lovers of flowers they lavished time and skill into creating beautiful gardens on their land. Other than electricity and some modern plumbing they made few changes in the buildings. In creating the garden the Newmans were guided by a plan designed by noted landscape architect Leland Noel.
Fifty years later Mrs. Newman bequeathed the property to the Belvedere Tiburon Landmarks Society for the benefit of the community and to preserve the gardens. The Landmarks Society undertook the task of restoring the cottage and bringing it up to modern building codes. All of the rough-hewn materials of the original building were used in the reconstruction, or if no longer serviceable, materials of similar age were located.
The garden restoration preserved the mature trees, shrubs and plants where ever possible. Master gardeners and other volunteers have replanted the terraces with colorful garden beds and walkways. A potting shed and greenhouse have been added, and a corner has been reserved as a children’s garden.
A number of historical artifacts which have been collected by the Landmarks Society have at last found a home at the center. Seating is provided by antique pews which had been used in the Belvedere Presbyterian Church and St. Stephens’s Episcopal Mission. A chandelier is from the old Belvedere Hotel.
The cast iron Belvedere Bell, which once hung from an oak tree on Golden Gate Avenue to warn the community of a fire, and later from the belfry of the Belvedere School, now hangs from a post at the center. A 5 x7 foot Chinese pagoda birdhouse dating from the 1890′s has been relocated from a private garden on Beach Road.
The Brick Kiln Historic Site and the Landmarks Art & Garden Center are located at 841 Tiburon Boulevard, Tiburon. The Center is open on Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon from May through October. Admission is free.
Private parties and group tours may be arranged through the Landmarks Society, please visit http://www.landmarks-society.org or call 415-435-1853 for further information.