Local History & Culture

In the late 1800s Portuguese immigrant Constantino Bello,  (likely the brother of Antonio Nunes Bello, one of the early Presidents of the IDESST – the Portuguese Social Hall established in Sausalito in 1888), purchased the “Ranch M” property from the Tamalpais Land and Water Company, and soon thereafter built several wooden structures for a dairy operation, including a farm house, a creamery, a milking barn and a small shed. That dairy, which was located directly across Route 1 from what is today the entrance to Muir Beach and the Pelican Inn, was operated by a succession of Portuguese families including the Lopes family, which was the last to operate it as a dairy. For the last several years of its operation, the dairy was called the Golden Gate Dairy. Today it is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and qualifies for the National Registry of Historic Places.

Entrance to Lopes family’s Golden Gate Dairy circa 1948

Creamery and Sanitary barns circa 1948

From 1997 the non-profit group Ocean Riders of Marin operated the Golden Gate Dairy Stables on the former dairy site under a limited-use permit from the National Park Service, as a trail rider¹s barn. As of July 1, 2015 Ocean Riders of Marin was granted a ten year lease by the National Park Service to continue their operations.

Today the Historic Milking Barn has become an icon of the local community, is used to store hay for Ocean Riders horses, is a venue for fundraising events and celebrations, and serves as the heart of the programs Ocean Riders provide to promote future young stewards’ appreciation of the local watershed, the history and culture of the valley, and the habitat we share. Our resident barn owls who’ve raised their young annually in the barn provide a great lesson in prey/predator relationships and the cycle of life.


Among the requirements of the lease is the restoration of the historic buildings and one of Ocean Riders’ priorities is the preservation of the Hay Barn. Once the basic structure is stabilized and a new roof is installed, we hope to create an interpretive center in a portion of the barn.  The interpretive center would have visual displays and publications about the Dairy’s past, portraying the stories of the Azorean immigrant farmers who operated the dairy.   The center would contain photographs of original structures and depict how the dairy gradually evolved into an equestrian facility. 

The Lopes Family Sanitary Barn circa 1948

This building now serves as an office and tack room and houses stalls for horses with special medical needs.

Visiting children view photos from 1965 when the Dairy began its transformation to a horse boarding facility.

Around 1970 lease holders Tink and Dick Pervier allowed the Muir Beach Volunteer Fire Department to renovate the Creamery building to house their truck and emergency equipment.   To this day, our neighbors, the MBVFD continue to be valued first responders to local emergencies and rescues.

Creamery Building circa 1965: used for storage prior to the MBVFD conversion to their firehouse in 1970

Muir Beach Volunteer Fire Department next to the hay barn circa 1972

Because Frank Valley at one time was home to several Portuguese dairy operations, the Interpretive Center would serve as a starting point for a  self-guided dairy farm historic hike that loops through the valley and over Dias Ridge  with informative displays along the trails indicating the location and family names of these former Azorean dairy farms.

There remains a vibrant Portuguese community in Southern Marin County which has been an integral part of the history of this area.  We hope to acquire more photos to depict their contribution to this valley. If anyone has any historical photos they’d like to share please CONTACT us. Please watch for updates as we recover more history of the Portuguese dairy farmers to post on this page.

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