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Then & Now: Boyle Park Tennis Courts

Tennis has a long, storied history in Mill Valley, and these courts have been one of the centerpieces of the sport here.

Boyle Park means different things to different people. The two most common and popular events that take place at Boyle part are tennis at the public courts and little league baseball at one of the two fields. In this week's Then & Now, we look at two photos of the tennis courts.

The name Boyle has a direct connection to the original European landowner of Mill Valley – John Reed. He received a land grant from the Mexican government in 1834, the first grant in an area that would later be named Marin County. Reed died in 1843, and his widow Hilaria Sanchez Reed soon remarried. She had a daughter, Carmelita Garcia, with her second husband Bernardo Garcia. After a complex legal nightmare, Hilaria, Garcia and her children kept the title to much of the land that is currently eastern Mill Valley, the Strawberry Peninsula and Tiburon. 

Carmelita grew up on Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio (Mill Valley) and in the city of San Francisco. She married Hugh Boyle and took his name. They built and lived in a house on Manor Drive that remains the oldest house in Mill Valley.

Carmelita passed away in 1906, and in her will, left the young city of Mill Valley two acres to be dedicated as a city park just below her home. The city also agreed to purchase an additional six acres that became the boundaries of what we currently know as Boyle Park.

A baseball field was formed on what is now the little league area. For years the baseball diamond was laid out on what is now the “south” (minors) diamond. It was one field, and was measured out for semi-pro baseball. It remained this dimension until the late 1950s, when semi-pro baseball moved their diamond over to where Mill Valley Middle school sits, and Boyle Park designed the current two little league fields.

Tennis was played in Mill Valley in the early days, but mostly on private courts and private tennis clubs. The current tennis courts at Boyle Park did not go up in until 1938. There were three courts field built and had lights to play by night, a real novelty. In the early years, players would drop a dime into the light machine and play for 30 minutes. When the lights automatically went out, they'd drop in 10 more cents for another 30 minutes. By the 1970s, the city began picking up the light bill and it was free to play tennis at night in Mill Valley.

In the early 1980s, the additional two courts were built on the backside of the original three. They were built over two hand ball courts. Today there are five very well maintained tennis courts at Boyle Park which are still open to the public. In recent years, the Boyle Park Renovation campaign has to repair and renovate the courts. 

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