History of the Tomales Hotel
Tomales - March 2002
March 2002 marked the opening of the Tomales Hotel, located in the rural little coastal
town of Tomales (pronounced toe-MAL-is). Our name pays homage to The Continental Hotel,
Tomales' first hotel, built in the mid-1850's. The hotel building was commonly referred to
as "the pavilion" because it housed a large hall that frequently hosted diverse
entertainment, from dances to public meetings.
This very old photograph (right, circa 1870's) shows the hotel as a square two-story
structure with a false front that was constructed with rustic boards. The sides were
surfaced with clap boards. There was a double-decked veranda across the front five steps
above the ground. Square wooden pillars supported the upper deck and a barber shop pole
was nailed to one of the pillars. A glass door with five windows opened onto the upper deck.
On Sunday afternoons, men and boys would gather along the steps where running and jumping
contests were held. Wrestling matches and an occasional dog fight would ensue to enliven
the contests. A horse race near the corner of Highway One and Tomales-Petaluma road
attracted much interest with many small wagers being made.
This location has been the sight of several hotels over the last 150 years. When a
disastrous fire destroyed the Continental Hotel in 1877, the U.S. Hotel was built replacing
The Continental Hotel and the U.S. Hotel accommodated many teams of wagons over a span of
quite a few years that would line up day after day for their turn to load and unload goods
and produce; too weary for their return, the travelers would often stay. Traveling salesman
also accounted for a large amount of business for the hotels. They would trade produce to
the farmers and sell goods to the general store.
In those times, Petaluma was too far away to be able to travel both directions in a day.
Tomales was a community intently focused on becoming the largest cosmopolitan town in
Marin. San Rafael was the largest, but the people of Tomales were undoubtedly the loudest!
Bray Dickinson, a local historian has writings of his own observations of the 1850's
describing Tomales as "busy day and night and the people are a boisterous, cursing,
hard-drinking, tobacco-chewing crowd that fills the town."
We hope you enjoy your stay with us and if you're interested in finding additional
information about Tomales, please visit the Tomales Regional History center located to
the South on Highway One, about a five-minute walk from the hotel.