Our History

History of Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary


Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary are built on traditional lands of the Coastal Miwok people.



  • John Thomas Reed was granted an 8,000 acre parcel of land, the Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio. It encompassed the present-day communities of Tiburon, Belvedere, Strawberry, and Mill Valley.


  • Dr. Benjamin Lyford moved to San Francisco and met Hilarita Reed, daughter of John Thomas Reed. They married, moved to Strawberry Point, established the Eagle Dairy. and in 1876 built the Lyford House. 
  • Manuel Rodrigues da Fonta, a Portuguese immigrant, worked for the Reed Family and lived with his wife and three-year-old daughter, Rose, on this site, part of the Reed Ranch.


  • Although forbidden to have a romance with Rose Rodrigues da Fonta due to class differences, John Paul Reed, gave these 11 acres of bay front property to Rose as a token of his affection.
  • Rose (later known as Rosie) remained on the property for the rest of her life. In 1933, she married Arthur Verral and together they raised goats and tended the site’s gardens.



  • Reedport Properties Inc. acquired the title to over 900 acres of submerged tideland, encompassing nearly all of Richardson Bay and initiated plans for a several thousand home community.


  • Utah Construction Company joined in Reedport’s efforts to fill Richardson Bay, and added plans to develop 500 acres of the Tiburon peninsula.
  • Dr. David Steinhardt, a retired surgeon living on Strawberry Point, purchased the tidelot in front of their home in an effort to block construction. Dr. Steinhardt contacted John Baker, then president of the National Audubon Society to help save the bay.
  • In October, concerned citizens held the first meeting of the Marin Audubon Society, with Dr. Steinhardt serving as president.


  • Rosie became concerned about fate of her land and the threat of development. She met Caroline Livermore, President of the Marin Conservation League and agreed to donate her land to the sanctuary with the condition she be allowed to remain on the property in perpetuity.
  • Dr. Steinhardt saved the Lyford house from demolition and helped arrange a volunteer brigade to move the house by barge from Strawberry Point to the sanctuary property.


  • The National Audubon Society, Marin County, and City of Belvedere the tideland from Reedport Properties Inc. & Utah Construction Company. The National Audubon Society leased 900 acres of submerged tideland in Richardson Bay and established the wildlife sanctuary.



  • Elizabeth Terwilliger, a nature educator involved with the preservation of the Bay, began conducting outdoor education programs for third-graders at the sanctuary.


  • Rose Verral’s eightieth birthday, in 1963, was held at the Sanctuary and jointly hosted by The National Audubon Society and the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society.
  • Rosie passed away in 1964 at the age of eighty-one.

Today the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary is a place of continuing education, preservation and conservation.

How you can help, right now