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Marin history: How Belvedere Cove came to be


Courtesy of Marin History Museum

Belvedere Cove pictured in 1896.

By Scott Fletcher | Marin History Museum

October 29, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Belvedere Cove

Belvedere Cove, originally named Stillwater Bay, separates what was first named El Potrero de la Punta del Tiburon, then Still Island, Peninsula Island, and finally Belvedere Island, from present-day Corinthian Island and the Tiburon mainland. These islands were part of the 8,000-acre Mexican land grant of Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio that was given to John Thomas Reed in 1834.

Early settlers on Belvedere were fisherman Israel Kashow in 1855 and Nicolas Bichard in 1865. Bichard supplied Kashow with cod from the Alaska Banks, and was also involved in boat salvaging. Disputes over boundaries and ownership of the land grant culminated in a Reed attorney, James Bolton, winning title to the islands in 1868 after which the U.S. Army built a military reservation on Peninsula Island. However, Kashow refused to leave for many years until another attorney, Thomas Valentine, won a case in Federal Court in which he succeeded in wrestling away nearly the entire area of the original land grant.

In 1886, the Corinthian Yacht Club built its first clubhouse on what would soon be called Corinthian Island, and the famed “China Cabin” is salvaged from the paddle steamer China and moved to Beach Road. In 1890, Valentine formed the Belvedere Land Company and hired San Francisco city engineer, M.M. O’Shaughnessy, to design the terraced hillsides and winding streets that surround the newly renamed Belvedere Island.

Many of the original homes and mansions on the island, mostly summer residences for wealthy San Franciscans, were designed by famed architects Willis Polk and Julia Morgan. The town of Belvedere was incorporated in 1896, and by 1900 there were 50 homes and a luxurious 50 room hotel on Belvedere. Beach Road, seen in the photograph connecting Corinthian Island in the distance to Belvedere in the foreground, accommodated a post office, grocery store, telephone exchange, beauty shop, laundry, boatyard, plumber’s shop, blacksmith’s shop and and even a jail.

After the 1906 earthquake, many families moved permanently to their summer homes on Belvedere or onto the spacious floating arks or houseboats on Belvedere Cove. Also visible in the image is Belvedere Lagoon behind Beach Road, Old Saint Hilary’s Church high up the hillside overlooking Corinthian Island, and a portion of the Tiburon ferry docks and rail yards on the extreme right.

History Watch is written by Scott Fletcher, a volunteer at the Marin History Museum, Images included in History Watch are available for purchase by calling 415-382-1182 or by email at

P. O. Box 150727, San Rafael, CA 94915        415-382-1182    

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