Point Reyes Station, California

Point Reyes Station, which has the biggest commercial district, owes its existence (and obviously part of its name) to the railroad that ran through for 59 years ending in 1933.
Originally it was called Olema Station. However, the main property owner, Novato dentist Galen Burdell, gave it its lasting name in 1883. Black Mountain, whose rolling crest dominates the near distance east of town, carries the family name of Burdell’s wife.

Along Main Street, which is A Street, is also Highway 1 but is marked as Shoreline Highway, most of the north-facing facades date to the railroad era. The architecture is vaguely Italianate– many of the early town fathers were Northern Italian immigrants or Italian speaking Swiss.

The most imposing edifice is the brick Grandi Building, built in 1915. Although empty now, it once housed a grand hotel, ballroom, and general store. Down the street, the woodsided Point Reyes Emporium (1898) survived the 20th Century beautifully.

The railroad switching yard occupied the facing area. Here, once standard gauge rails were laid from Sausalito, loads had to be shifted to and from the narrowgauge cars that still ran north up to the Russian River. Ultimately, the old depot was turned and moved and is now the postoffice. The old enginehouse stands too; it’s the burnt-red structure a block off the highway from the gas station.

Elsewhere, commercial and office buildings are known as what they once were: the Old Creamery Building, the Livery Stable, the Hay Barn. The rambling white building at the southern entrance to town is known as the Cheda Building, although Cheda’s Garage (the oldest Triple-A outlet in the state) is a block up the street. Even the Point Reyes Whale of a Deli is sometimes called by its original name – Cheda’s – even though the store has had several evolutions in between.

The sidewalks buzz with activity on sunny weekends. As the coast’s commercial anchor, Point Reyes Station has at least one – and usually just one – of everything: one hardware store, one grocery store, the only bank on the Marin coast, and likewise, the only feed supplier, and the only pharmacy.

The downtown eateries, of which there are several, seem almost a mandatory stop for caravans of bicyclists, motorcyclists and all manner of visitors coming through.

It’s a free port, blue-collar at its roots, and you can still catch a whiff of livestock in the breeze.

“The national seashore begins 25 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, and it must drive developers crazy to see it just lying there, virtually empty. Its natural state is a tribute to former President John F. Kennedy, who declared that the peninsula should be saved as a national treasure. He set aside nearly 80,000 acres for public use. The largest town at the edge of the park, Point Reyes Station, consists of a couple of dozen buildings that line both sides of Route 1.” – Washington Post

There’s a great bakery, a few restaurants, a shop selling the crafts of local weavers, a studio for a photographer who has devoted his life to shooting the Point Reyes landscape, a surf shop, a grocery store, a combination organic produce/artist gallery/gift shop/feed store, and a modern country emporium with a wide selection of clothing, shoes, toys & gifts

Small inns and cottages scattered around the edges of the park offer the only lodging, which might explain why, at the height of the tourist season, there are no jostling crowds of tourists on the streets, no traffic jams. Wide expanses of beach are so empty you feel as if you’ve found a private space in heaven.”