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Olompali State Historic Park

Olompali State Historic Park
The Burdell Barn at Olompali State Historic Park
Map showing the location of Olompali State Historic Park
Location in California
Location Marin County, California, USA
Nearest city Novato, California
Area 700 acres (2.8 km2)
Governing body State of California
Official name Rancho Olompali
Designated January 12, 1973
Reference no. 73000409[1]
Built 1840
Official name Oldest House North of San Francisco Bay
Reference no. 210[2]

Olompali State Historic Park is a 700-acre (2.8 km2) park in Marin County, California, 3.5 miles (5.6 km) north of Novato, California, overlooking the Petaluma River and San Pablo Bay. In 1977 the State of California purchased Rancho Olompali and made it into a state historic park. The foundations of two early adobe brick houses are preserved in the park. The Burdell two-story frame house, built in the 1870s serves as the ranger station. Associated ranch buildings include barns, a blacksmith shop, a saltbox house and a ranch superintendent's house.


  • Significance 1
  • History 2
    • Prehistoric—Native American era 2.1
    • Mexican era—Rancho Olompali 2.2
    • The Blacks and Burdells 2.3
    • Jesuit retreat, commune and state park 2.4
  • Location 3
  • Notes 4
    • Sources 4.1
  • External links 5


The park is the site of the oldest surviving house north of the San Francisco Bay, built in 1776 of adobe bricks by the chief of the Olompolli band of the Coast Miwok tribe.[2][3] It is California Historical Landmark #210.

The chief's son, given the Spanish Mission Indian name of Camilo Ynitia (alternatively spelled 'Camillo'), was the only Californian Native American in Northern California to confirm and keep a large Mexican-era land grant in the post—Mexican Cession U.S. era.[3]


Prehistoric—Native American era

The name "Olompali" comes from the Coast Miwok language and likely means "southern village" or "southern people".[4] The Coast Miwok village site of Olompali (alternatively spelled "Olompolli", "Olompoli" or "Olumpali") dates back to about 500 CE.[5] Olompali had been a main center in 1200 CE, and might have been the largest native village in Marin County.[4]

An Elizabethan English 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.[5] Many Miwok cultural artifacts have been identified during archaeological studies within the area of the present-day park, indicating this may have once been an important trade and cultural crossroads.

The oldest house built north of the San Francisco Bay was built here in 1776 by the Coast Miwok, out of adobe bricks, and owned by the chief of the Olompoli tribe Aurelio, who was the father of Camillo Ynitia. Camillo was known as the last Hoipu (Headman) of the Miwok community living at Olompali.[3]

Mexican era—Rancho Olompali

In 1843, with the helpful petition of General Vallejo, Governor Manuel Micheltorena of Alta California granted the land of Rancho Olompali to Camillo Ynitia, the acting Hoipu (Headman) of the village:[3]

The newly secured grant of Rancho Olompali included Ynitia's father's historic house, the first adobe house built north of the San Francisco Bay, as well as his own adobe house.

Ynitia's adobe house was the site of the Battle of Olompali in June 1846, during the Bear Flag Revolt.[5]

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.[4][5] Black was to become one of the largest landowners of Marin County.[4] Ynitia retained 1,480 acres (6.0 km2) of Olompali called Apalacocha.

The Blacks and Burdells

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.[3][5] Mary's son James transformed Olompali into a country estate, he built a 26-room mansion with a formal Victorian-style mansion that incorporated the foundations and rooms of Ynitio's adobe house.[4][6]

Jesuit retreat, commune and state park

The land and estate was eventually sold by the Burdell family to Court Harrington. Harrington in turn sold it to the University of San Francisco, to be used as a Jesuit retreat.[4][5]

"During the 1960s, the University of San Francisco sold Olompali several times. Each time, the buyers defaulted and the property reverted to the university. The most famous tenant was the rock band Grateful Dead. During the Dead's brief stay it became a gathering place for San Francisco's rock musicians, including Janis Joplin and Grace Slick."[4]

In 1967 Don McCoy leased Olompali, and started a hippie commune there called The Chosen Family.[7] By February 1969 the Burdell Mansion had been destroyed by an electrical fire, a fatal car wreck had been caused by the commune's loose animal, narcotics raids had been conducted by authorities, and Don McCoy had been placed in a mental ward.[8] Two small children then drowned on the commune, after which the residents were evicted by their Jesuit landlords.[9] Finally, in 1977, the State of California purchased the land and turned it into the state park.[4][5]


Olompali State Historic Park is located at 8901 Redwood Highway, State Highway 101 (P.M. 24.8), 3.5 miles (5.6 km) north of Novato. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Rancho Olompali.[1] Ynitia's adobe house is registered as California Historical Landmark #210.[2]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  2. ^ a b c "Oldest House North of San Francisco Bay". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Camillo Ynitia, Coast Miwok (1803-1856) - Catholic, Rancho Grant OwnerUniversity of California Irvine
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Reutinger 1997.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Olompali State Historic Park, Website 2008.
  6. ^ Mason, Jack; Park, Helen Van Cleave (1971). Early Marin. Petaluma, Calif.: House of Printing.  
  7. ^ Fernandez, E. R., & Parkman, E. B. (2011). The Commune Era of Olompali: Challenging Our Assumptions of the Hippie Lifestyle. Society for California Archaeology Proceedings, 25, 1. [3]
  8. ^ Karman, Mal (January 15, 2015). "All about Olompali".  
  9. ^ People v. McCoy, 13 Cal. App. 3d 6, 91 Cal. Rptr. 357 (Ct. App. 1970). [4]


  • Reutinger, Joan (September 1997). "Olompali Park Filled With History". The Coastal Post. 
  • California State Parks, Office of Historic Preservation — Marin County landmarks
  • Olompali State Historic Park; by California Department of Parks and Recreation; 2008.
  • Shumway, Burgess M. (1988). California Ranchos: Patented Private Land Grants Listed by County. San Bernardino, Calif.: The Borgo Press.  

External links

  • websiteOlompali State Historic ParkCalifornia State Parks: official
  • California State Parks: Olompali State Historic Park pamphlet and map
  • Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) No. CA-4, "Olompali State Historic Park, Mary Burdell Garden, U.S. Highway 101, Novato, Marin County, CA", 20 photos, 3 measured drawings, 27 data pages, 2 photo caption pages
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