Then and Now: Lytton Square

Named in honor of World War I veteran, downtown centerpiece is home to a trio of redwood trees.

If Mill Valley has a proverbial watercooler, it is . But unbeknownst to many local residents and visitors alike, Lytton Square is not the large gathering place outside the . That is, in fact, .

Lytton Square is the island along the stretch of Throckmorton Avenue between Corte Maderta and Miller avenues, home to three towering redwood trees, a flagpole and a number of places to sit, relax and find out the latest dish from its regulars.

In this week's Then photo, you'll see Lytton Square in the distance as you look westbound along Throckmorton from around the vantage point of the . The photo was taken in the spring of 1962, on the opening day of the little league parade. The three sequoia (redwood) trees, which now stand more than 60 feet tall, were no more than 5 years old at the time. So these are not old growth redwoods that survived the logging years of Mill Valley back in the 1830s. These were planted in the 1950s and have done quite well in the 60 years since then.

Near the trees and flagpole is a plaque that mentions the origins of the name Lytton Square. It was named in honor of Lytton Plummer Barber, who was the first soldier from Mill Valley to die in World War I. Lytton grew up in Mill Valley and was 17 years old in 1917 when the United States entered World War I. He volunteered and was sent for training at Fort Lewis. 

Shortly after he arrived, he caught the fever of spinal meningitis. Tragically, it claimed his life within two weeks. He died stateside before he ever left the continental U.S., the first casualty from Mill Valley. The following spring, on Memorial Day of 1918, there was a dedication in his honor in Mill Valley, and thus Lytton Square was born.





Ann Sonz Matranga September 02, 2011 at 07:28 PM
I heard an interesting story about Lytton Square, and I don't know whether it's true. I heard that when rock music impressario Bill Graham provided funds for benches, chess tables and the like, many people objected, fearing that such a space would invite 'loitering' by undesirable people, whatever that meant. Of course the design for a town center proved to be a visionary move that shaped the heart of Mill Valley today. If the story is true, how lucky that fear didn't win.
Rico September 03, 2011 at 04:11 PM
Was anyone around and have photos of Lytton Square the day they closed off downtown on July 4, 1972 ? It was a music festival and featured many local bands, including Quicksilver Messenger Service. That was one of the best days that I have ever had in Mill Valley, the town was packed with people from all over the county. It was a blast. I was one of the people who climbed up on tor of the roof of Pat and Joe's restaurant to get a better view of the band. When someone from the band asked us to get off the roof we did. We used a rain gutter drain pipe to climb up and down from the roof. There were so many girls up there, I of course let them all climb down before me. I was the last one down, and the drain pipe pulled away from the wall and I landed on my back on the concrete below. I got the wind knocked out of me but no serious injuries. Mill Valley was one hip little city back in those days, I'm glad that I was in on it.
Amyland September 03, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Spiral meningitis? Down quite well? Love the Patch but some proofreading is in order...surely you're not just spellchecking??
Tracey Ruiz September 03, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Corrections made Amyland. Thanks.


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