Monday, June 4, 2012


Eastern View from Olompali

Took a trip to Olompali, the ancient Native American Village grounds North of San Rafael, CA. Many things have happened at Olompali over the years, from the ancient native american times to the 1960’s with the Grateful Dead and a Hippie Commune. The site is now a California State Historic Park.
Redwood Bark Miwok House Site Reconstruction
The name Olompali comes from the Coast Miwok language and likely means "southern village" or "southern people". The Coast Miwok village site of Olompali dates back to about 500 CE, but Olompali had been a main center since 1200 CE, and might have been the largest native village in Marin County.
Miwok Tule Reed House Reconstruction
An Elizabethan silver sixpence minted in 1567 was discovered in the park by archeologists, indicating that villagers may have had contact with Sir Francis Drake or with people who had traded with the early English explorer. Many Miwok cultural artifacts have been identified, indicating this was once an important trade and cultural crossroads.
Protected Wall from Oldest Adobe North of SF Bay
The oldest house built north of the San Francisco Bay was built here in 1776 by the Coast Miwok out of adobe bricks. It was owned by the chief of the Olompali tribe Aurelio, who was the father of Camillo Ynitia. Camillo was known as the last Hoipu (Headman) of the Miwok community living at Olompali. In 1843, with the helpful petition of General Vallejo, the land was granted to Camillo Ynitia.
Original Burdell 1870's Frame House- Now Park Administration
Ynitia held onto the Olompali land title for 9 years, but in 1852 he sold most of the land to James Black of Marin for $5,200. In 1863, the land and adobe house passed from James Black to his daughter Mary (Black) Burdell and her husband Galen Burdell, a wealthy dentist. Mary's son James transformed Olompali into a country estate, he built a formal 26-room mansion that incorporated the foundations and rooms of Ynitio's original adobe house. Mary Burdell also had a formal garden in front of the mansion.
Ruins of James Burdell's 26 Room Mansion
The land and estate was eventually sold by the Burdell family to Court Harrington. Harrington in turn sold it to theUniversity of San Francisco to be used as a Jesuit retreat.
Grateful Dead Playing at the Burdell Mansion in 1966
During the 1960s, the University of San Francisco sold Olompali several times. Each time, the buyers defaulted and the property reverted back to the university. The most famous tenant was the rock band The Grateful Dead. During the Dead's brief stay it became a gathering place for San Francisco's rock musicians, including Janis Joplin, The Jefferson Airplane and Grace Slick among many others of the SF scene.
In 1967, Don McCoy leased Olompali, and started a hippie commune there called The Chosen Family. A fire caused by faulty wiring eventually destroyed the Burdell Mansion. Finally in 1977, the State of California purchased the land for the present State Park.
There’s great hiking trails to explore and a project is underway showing several structures representative of a Coast Miwok village. Visitors to the park can see two kotchas, indian houses, one made from redwood bark and another made with bundles of native tule reeds. Olompali is a great place. It’s a must see.
Highly recommended.
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