Painting of cows by a lake at sunset Patio with table, chair, door and wall flowers Point Reyes Beach

125 Years of Point Reyes History

Point Reyes Road - 1918

View from The Schoolhouse™ of a Couple Motoring Down Scenic California Coast Route One, circa 1918

Our Point Reyes Schoolhouse was built in 1879 to serve the children of the little cow town of Pt. Reyes, which grew up around the steam train station – Point Reyes Station – that brought supplies and vacationers out to Tomales Bay and the Northern California coast, then took dairy products from the local ranches back. The train station is now our local post office where I go to collect my mail. Our open pasture that once supported the Point Reyes Water Company tower and tank is now a meadow filled with wildflowers in the spring.

Pt. Reyes

The Schoolhouse™ was one of very few buildings in Point Reyes, California in the 1880’s. The school stood alone at the top of the hill just north of town. The train station, the Foresters’ Hall, a mercantile, a small hotel, a train car barn, and a few other buildings clustered around the train tracks.

Over the years as the town grew a few cottages sprang up, a bigger school was built in the center of town, and the Point Reyes Schoolhouse became home to generations of local families. A back porch kitchen was added as well as indoor plumbing. Roses, naked ladies and fruit trees were planted under the towering cypress trees. The 1906 earthquake – Epicenter Olema – knocked the house off its foundation (a boulder under each corner). A team of horses and a come-along pulled it back up to plumb, (well…closer to plumb.)

Point Reyes Lodging

Karen and partner in The Schoolhouse™ - 1977

Karen Gray and Partner Inside the
The Schoolhouse™ 1977 – “Before”

When we bought the Point Reyes Schoolhouse in 1977, it was a ramshackle mess: five layers of sagging roofs, frightening electrical wiring, bowed floors, rotten windows, no heat, no foundation, (the four boulders were still there, one under each corner). But, it was an historic building and we fell for it, as well as its prospect at the top of the hill looking down on the little town and over to the beautiful Inverness Ridge of the Point Reyes Seashore. We loved being up in the sunshine just a short walk from town.

 

Inside The Schoolhouse™ - Present

The Schoolhouse™ Interior View Today – “After”

After ten years of hard work at night and on weekends, with not much more than our carpentry skills and determination, we had a home.  We raised children, chickens, vegetables, fruit trees and honey bees here, making blackberry jam every summer. We built the wood-fired oven in the garden, a pond, Jasmine Cottage and Gray’s Retreat. I was a professional artist for many years, then commuted from The Schoolhouse™ to U.C. Berkeley to become a landscape architect.

 

Point Reyes Schoolhouse and Gardens - Present

Point Reyes Schoolhouse and Gardens Today

The Schoolhouse™, Jasmine Cottage & Gray’s Retreat

A Chicken

Chickens on the Point Reyes Schoolhouse Compound

Twenty-five years ago I converted the carriage house to Jasmine Cottage. It was the very first cottage open to visitors as a Point Reyes vacation rental. Point Reyes area lodging at the time was just a few traditional bed and breakfasts in Inverness with a couple small motels on that side of Tomales Bay. Inverness was the place for holidays then; Point Reyes was a working cow town.

Nobody thought visitors would want to stay in the little town of Pt. Reyes. Because I offered a secluded garden cottage with an invitation to bring the children and the family dog, Jasmine Cottage was instantly popular as a romantic get-away and a family retreat. Sixteen years ago I designed and built the barn that houses Gray’s Retreat, intended as places for our extended family to visit and as part-time vacation rentals.

Point Reyes Seashore

The Point Reyes National Seashore was still young when we moved to Pt. Reyes in 1977. Today, over 3 million visitors each year come to experience the wild and beautiful lands that surround our home: Point Reyes National Seashore, Tomales Bay State Park, the Gen Gate National Recreation Area, and Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

Most of these visitors are Americans, the same citizens who supported the legislation and pay the taxes that established and maintain our spectacular area. It is a great pleasure for me to share this piece of authentic California with all of my guests – most especially those without whose support this area would not be protected.

Illustration of child walking trail

Loren Hiking Muddy Hollow Trail with California Newts

“The Family Guide to Point Reyes”
by Karen Gray

I wrote and illustrated, “The Family Guide to Point Reyes” to answer the questions of the many guests who stayed with me on The Schoolhouse™ Compound over the years. Sales from the first edition wholly benefited the local preschool and it is out in just a few years.

A second edition is now in the works: “The Family Guide to Point Reyes: the Best Adventures From 30 years of Life in West Marin.”