History of Gerstle Park
The area that is now Gerstle Park was first acquired and developed by J.O.B. Short in the late 1800's. It was known as Short's Tract, and then Southside. Some of the original homes were built as summer residences for San Francisco families, including the two adjoining estates of the Lewis Gerstle and Louis Sloss families, where large lawns and exotic trees provided an idyllic retreat.
By the turn of the century, smaller homes featuring Arts and Crafts elements were being built to house a new wave of immigrants, many of whom were Italians who came to work on local railroads. In those years, the sleepy Southside still had cows, chickens and dirt streets, and the Italians grew grapes for wine.
In 1903 an imposing Greek Revival school, Southside Primary, was built. Its name was later changed to Short School. The Gerstle Family deeded their estate to the City of San Rafael for a jewel-like park in the 1950's.
The neighborhood continued to mature into the mid-century, when city zoning laws allowed many of the beautiful older homes to be destroyed and replaced with apartment buildings. Both the benefits and problems of greater density came to the area.
In 1973, the Gerstle Park Neighborhood Association was formed so that neighbors could work in a unified way with the City to preserve the neighborhood's character and deal with issues of concern.
To learn more about our neighborhood's history, visit our historic photo gallery: Neighborhood history
For more on the history of Gerstle Park, San Rafael, and Marin County in general, please consider visiting and supporting the Marin History Museum.