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Then and Now: Mill Valley Community Center

Once home to a recreation center that was borne out of the Ranch Wagon Restaurant, Mill Valley landmark is one of our town's hubs of activity.

One of Mill Valley's crown jewels arose in 2000, but the land on which it sits has a history that dates back long before then.

The  is one of the most prominent and utilized facilities in town, housing a bevy of event and meeting spaces and rooms for dance, art, exercise, and weightlifting. The attached aquatics center has a retractable roof and a 120-foot spiral waterslide. The center is encircled by the heavily used .

It's hard to believe, but it was only 12 years ago that the center was approximately one-third its current size and was the remnant of an old roadside cafeteria. It was then known as the Mill Valley Recreation Center.

This week's Then photo was taken in 1963, when the old Ranch Wagon Restaurant was moved on wheels from its previous location, near along Redwood Hwy., to the center's current location at 180 Camino Alto, crossing Pickleweed Inlet on a small barge along the way. To those that saw it first-hand, it was a memory they'll never forget. The former restaurant building was renovated and converted into the Rec Center, which opened in 1969.

The three-room building was placed on a 16-acre lot referred to as Project 17. It was placed in the middle of a horse ring, and was next to what used to be a baseball field and the city dump. The horse ring, the dump and the baseball field have been filled and are now where the and soccer fields stand. For those who have a difficult time visualizing the front side, check out a photo on the Mill Valley Library's History Room Web site.

The old Rec Center operated from the mid-1960's to 1998. Although it lacked all the modern day frills of our current center, with one larger room and two very small side rooms, most locals can remember taking Lamaze classes, Jazzercise, CPR, baby sitting classes or attending junior high school dances. Like any memorable structure we grow up with, it was small in size, but large in character and heart.

alex rodriguez May 03, 2011 at 10:33 PM
I grew up here and totally remember the red building where I took my ballet lessons. The rickety old steps leading up to the area and the big horse ring next to it. Thanks Tim for a walk down memory lane! Alex Rodriguez :)
Candy Mowers Mendell June 07, 2011 at 07:00 PM
That's my dad's building He actually sold it to the city of Mill Valley for $1.00, just to make it legal I guess. It was an exciting time for my family. I was only 6 years old, but I remember the city honoring us and riding in the back of a convertible in a parade. Thanks for taking me back to my childhood! Candy Mowers Mendell

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