San Rafael’s historic Boyd Gate House available for tenants

Noble Horvath

The landmark Boyd Gate House on B Street in San Rafael – home to the Marin History Museum for more than a half-century – could soon be a shop, a gallery or someone’s unique workspace. San Rafael city officials announced this month the rare lease opportunity for the historic building, […]

The landmark Boyd Gate House on B Street in San Rafael – home to the Marin History Museum for more than a half-century – could soon be a shop, a gallery or someone’s unique workspace.

San Rafael city officials announced this month the rare lease opportunity for the historic building, which could function as a museum, retail space, art gallery or other commercial operation.

“It’s a historic landmark,” said Fabiola Guillen, a city project manager who is overseeing the effort. “We think the community could benefit from someone who appreciates the property the way that we do. We’re open to all applications.”

The Boyd Gate House, situated at 1125 B St. at Mission Street, was built in 1879 as a gatehouse and overflow guest house on the estate that was inherited by famed Arctic explorer and photographer Louise Arner Boyd.

The home, which has been described as “classic” Victorian and also Gothic Revival, was constructed for the nearby Boyd mansion, which is now occupied by the Elks Club of San Rafael.

The gate house and its grounds were donated by the Boyd family to the city, which dedicated it as a park in 1905. The three-story building set into a downtown hillside, surrounded by landscaped grounds and a granite and iron fence.

City officials advertised the lease opportunity on Sept. 15, noting that, according to estimates, the monthly operating costs would be around $1,200 a month. The details of the lease haven’t been finalized.

The previous tenant, the Marin History Museum, leased the building for just $1 per year. Under the agreement, the museum staffers were in charge of maintenance costs. Upkeep of the property for the struggling museum became too great and staffers were forced to vacate the property in 2014, moving operations to its research center in Novato.

The Boyd Gate House is seen in San Rafael, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

Since the museum left the building, the city’s Department of Economic Development and the sustainability and program manager have been using the Boyd house as an office. Those staffers are moving into newly freed up space at City Hall now that police and fire personnel have migrated to the new public safety building across the street.

Recently, the Boyd house underwent a $200,000 renovation. The project repaired the mold-damaged structure, upgraded plumbing and electrical systems and added waterproofing, a new roof and fresh paint.

Leslie Simons, treasurer of San Rafael Heritage, a historic preservation organization, said the city did a great job restoring the property.

Cars are seen on B Street passing he Boyd Gate House is seen in San Rafael, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. The city is looking for a new tenant to move into the the historical landmark and former home of the Marin History Museum. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

“We certainly hope they find someone who cares for the building,” Simons said. “We just really want to see it cared for.”

Simons said the San Rafael Heritage committee has not discussed the possibility of a new tenant and that the topic will likely be added to an upcoming agenda.

“I think we would want to at least have some kind of response to whoever may be looking to rent the property,” she said.

Statements of interest to lease the property are due by 4 p.m. Friday. City staffers will review applications through Nov. 3. City officials expect to have a new tenant move in no sooner than Jan. 5, 2021.

Any lease agreement that is up for consideration will be brought to the City Council for a public discussion, Guillen said.

Vice Mayor and mayoral candidate Kate Colin said the prime location downtown would be well appreciated by whoever moves in.

“It’s a fantastic space with a lot of personality,” Colin said. “It’s a nice opportunity to be able to lease it to bring in additional revenue to offset its maintenance cost.”

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