Department History

Getting Organized
Summer cottages were eventually joined by new homes built for year-around use. Permanent residents were eager to have the same amenities they had enjoyed when they
lived in San Francisco.

Before long, some of Corte Madera's rustic, rural qualities gave way to the impetus for street lights, sanitary sewers, graded roads, and water mains for household and fire protection use.

Utility services, opposed by those who were against taxation and/or urbanization, had enough support to win approval at special elections held to set tax rates and elect residents to run the various service districts.

Rustic Life Becomes More Suburban
Up to this point, household water came either from wells, springs, or was purchased when the water wagon came around. In fact, the notorious James McCue's first entrepreneurial endeavor in Marin County involved selling water from his wagon in 1863.

Water Companies
By 1910 there were enough year-around residents to make it profitable for someone who owned a source of water to lay pipes and sell it through a local distribution system. Several major landowners had established private water companies, channeling springs on their properties into large reservoirs. Springs filled these reservoirs with a sufficient supply to serve all those residents not fortunate enough to have their own wells.

The Chapman Water Works produced a flow of 10,000 gallons a day from a tunnel. Edgar Chapman had dug in the hills behind his home on Corte Madera Ridge. William Bradbury also built a large reservoir that was fed by a spring coming off the hill.

The purity and quality of Marin's water was so cherished by San Franciscans that they transported it across the bay in waterboats.

Eventually the Marin Municipal Water District took over all the smaller companies, extending
pipelines throughout the region.

Formation of the Fire Department
A vigorous volunteer fire department was formed in 1908 and provided fire protection with a chemical engine and 2 hose-carts. One of the hosecarts was stationed adjacent to Mahood's Store, in a station erected for $214, and the other one was kept at Roberts' Garage on Redwood Avenue at Morningside. Corte Madera's first fire truck was a small Chevrolet Pope Hartford acquired in 1916.

Fire Department Pumper
Twelve years later, voters approved a bond issue to purchase an American LaFrance pumper.
At 500 gallons per minute, it was the pride and glory of the volunteer fire department in 1928.
The volunteers incorporated in 1930 and raised funds to build a new fire station to house the truck on the corner of Willow and First Streets (now Tamalpais Drive). For the next 40 years, they provided virtually all of the fire protection to the town.