At one time, Olompali was one of the most significant Miwok communities. Thousands of Miwoks lived in the area. As many as 500 were "converted" to Christianity and then relocated to the newly colonized San Rafael in the early 1800's to build the mission. They were returned to Olompali only after work at the mission was completed. Given the beautiful surroundings of Olompali and the hard labor involved in building a structure like the San Rafael mission by hand, it is hard to believe this so-called conversion was by choice.
In the 1960s, Rancho Olompali was owned by the University of San Francisco. They used it as a Jesuit retreat, but it was too expensive to maintain. USF decided to find tenants, but very few people were willing to pay the whopping $250/ month rent for the 700-acre estate and 26 room mansion (and barn, pool and gardens).
Along came Jerry Garcia in 1966. He took a look at the curved ceilings of the mansion and decided the acoustics were perfect for jamming sessions with his band, the Grateful Dead. Olompali then became home to the rock band that would inspire generations of Deadheads.
The Chosen Family hippie commune, founded by Don McCoy, lived in the 26 room mansion located on the grounds of Rancho Olampali from 1967 to 1969. The mansion was the former home of the Burdell family, former owners of the ranch in the 1800s and early 1900s. Unfortunately, The Chosen Family weren't long term tenants at el Rancho. In 1969, while they were living on the premises, the mansion burned down. You might be thinking that perhaps one too many hookas or bongs was left unattended, but in fact the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring.
This is not the mansion, but an old barn that was located near the mansion. I expect there could have a been a few love-ins at this old barn.
Janis Joplin came to Olompali and serenaded The Chosen Family hippie commune in the late 1960s. After the mansion burned down, they left. A few years later, anthropologists discovered artifacts from the Miwok civilization. Amazing what you might find if you start digging up a former hippie commune.
All right - this is not exactly on the Bay, but there is a connection. Donald Crawford McCoy developed the first houseboat neighborhood in Sausalito, and owned the houseboat where Otis Redding wrote "The Dock of the Bay." Don McCoy dropped out of the establishment and in 1967 he leased the 700-acre Rancho Olompali. (This was before it became a State Park.) He became the bearded pot smoking patriarch of a hippie commune called the "The Chosen Family." This was where the Chosen Family made their home for two years.
According to the local park ranger, at least one Deadhead makes a pilgrimage here to Olompali State Park every year. I came here yesterday, but not to pay homage to anything other than the trees, the beautiful flowers, and the redtailed hawk that flew overhead. I did have my iPod with me and listened to some Jefferson Airplane and Santana. I guess I don't quite qualify as a Deadhead.
After The Grateful Dead moved in, Rancho Olompali became a popular hang out for other big names - Grace Slick, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Carlos Santana, to name a few.
Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers