An Odd Little Tiburon Factoid
Just past the town of
Tiburon there is a stone tower on the water’s edge. I have stood in this tower
and never knew its origin, simply assuming it was a decorative relic installed
by the town’s forefathers.This curious
structure was actually erected by a private landowner, with a vision toward
creating a planned community, “Lyford’s Hygeia”, dedicated to “healthful living”.
Hygeia means “Goddess of Health”.
Dr. Benjamin Lyford was
the man behind the vision, a civil war veteran and physician who made his fame
through the invention of an exceptionally effective embalming technique.
Dr. Lyford gained great
wealth through his marriage to his patient, Hilarita Reed.Hilarita’s father was John Reed, the first
white settler in Marin.He had been granted
a tract of land by the Mexican government in 1834.Think about that.Less than two hundred years ago he was given
a big chunk of prime Marin: The
grant encompassed what is now southern Corte Madera, the Tiburon Peninsula, and
Strawberry Point!Can you imagine the
value of that land in today’s terms?
Dr. Lyford applied his newlywed resources to the
ideals he’d adopted through his studies and began to create a utopian community
dedicated to outstanding health.I may
too have been so inspired if I just received Tiburon as a wedding gift.His architect, J.S. Cahill described the
requirements for the homes of Hygeia:“In all cases the kitchen and dining room
were to be detached from the house proper wholly or through an open colonnade
or pergola. No house should be in the shadow of another. All bedrooms and
bathrooms were to get the morning sun without exception. And as to sleeping
porches, a thing unheard of in those days, there was to be at least one on
every house and every house was to cost at least $5.000. No house was to line
up with another on any straight road - all were to be zigzagged or in echelon.”
Further, the sale of
tobacco and alcoholic beverages were to be prohibited in Hygeia.It would be a town of total abstainers.It seems that this restriction didn’t receive
a lot of traction, so he back-tracked and said, well, you could smoke and
drink, but only inside your own home.
Regardless, none of the
vision came to fruition because Dr. Lyford went blind and had to abandon the
The names Lyford, Reed
and Hilarita can be seen on various streets and buildings in contemporary
Tiburon.And now you know where this
charming little tower originated.