Art, Boyes Hot Springs, People, Photographs

Wing Young Huie

“My intent is to reveal not only what is hidden, but also what is plainly visible and seldom noticed.”

The Springs Museum concerns itself with “History, Art and Community.” Art has been somewhat neglected until now. Wing Young Huie is not a resident of the Springs, but the art he created here constitutes an important document of the place. It is an artistic achievement and a historical archive of Boyes Hot Springs in 2007.

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“I am the youngest of six and the only one in my family not born in China. For most of my life I’ve looked at my own Chinese-ness through a white, middle-class prism. Growing up in Duluth, Minnesota made it easy. After all, I was weaned on Snoopy, Mary Tyler Moore, and the Vikings. Mom made me pray to Buddha every New Year, but it was Jesus Christ Superstar who became my cultural touchstone. The result was that sometimes my own parents seemed exotic and even foreign to me.

They also were my first photographic subjects. I was twenty and living at home, experimenting with my new Minolta camera, when I made the first exposures of my dad in the kitchen. It was strange and exhilarating to look at someone so familiar so intently, and see something new. Now, some thirty years and hundreds of thousands of exposures later, I’m still trying to look at the world anew.

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Inside the Springs follows my many projects that attempt to reflect the dizzying mixture of socioeconomic and ethnic realities that encompass our changing cultural landscape. My first major exhibition in 1996 focused on Frogtown, a St. Paul neighborhood plagued with a dubious reputation driven in part by media stories. I spent two years photographing the complexities and mystery behind those headlines.

I continue to focus on submerged communities that exist on the periphery of the prevailing cultural radar. My intent is to reveal not only what is hidden, but also what is plainly visible and seldom noticed.

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I had never been to The Springs or Sonoma prior to my residency through the Sonoma Community Center. At the invitation of Shelly Willis, the former Artistic Director of the SCC, I spent one month photographing Boyes Hot Springs in October 2007. The process of photographing and interacting with people has remained, for the most part, the same since I photographed my own neighborhood in Duluth. I simply walk around, encountering people on the street, who then suggest or introduce others to photograph.

In this manner I meandered through the crooks and alleys of The Springs, photographing hundreds of citizens going about their daily lives. To describe a few: barbequing chickens, harvesting grapes at dawn, waiting for the school bus, a job, a blessing, a taco, dancing in the driveway, singing, jogging, mourning, celebrating, taking communion and pictures, aerobically swimming, tasting coffee and sweating communally.

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It’s difficult to sum up what I saw or learned. I photographed a fraction of what is there, but I feel I saw a lot. Sometimes I get asked what is the purpose of what I do and I’m never sure how to answer. In a way, making those first photographs of my dad may have been one of the most intimate things I ever did with a man who was not easy to know. Maybe that’s the reason.

There were many who helped me along the way, including Mario Castillo and the Vineyard Workers Services, Libby Hodgson, manager of the Barking Dog, Eric Holman, Abdul and Celeste Winders, formerly of the Valley of the Moon Teen Center, Juanita Brinkley, Tarja Beck and the Finnish American Heritage Association, Ellen LaBruce and the La Luz Center, Martha Parra, Ross Drulis Cusenbery Architects, and all the folks at the Sonoma Community Center.”

www.wingyounghuie.com

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Art, Boyes Hot Springs, Entertainment, Resorts, Valley of the Moon Main Stem Project

Coney Island

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Mr. Wolf Baron (sometimes Wulf Barron) announced the construction of the Coney Island resort on his tract of land in Boyes Hot Springs in December of 1922. Construction started in January 1923. The Index Tribune described it this way: “Sonoma Valley’s amusement park and tent city modeled after one of the leading resorts of southern California has been started. The park project is being financed by Wulf Barron (sic) and is being built on the 39 acre tract owned by Barron at Verano. There will be 30 summer cottages to occupy the shady bands of Sonoma creek, swimming pool, children’s playgrounds, etc. On the highway there will be a big amusement hall for dancing and pictures, restaurant, bowling alley and modern gasoline service station.”

Then in July: “The $100,000 amusement park at Verano[1] had scarcely opened its doors before financial troubles loomed. The Patriarchs’ Militant Band[2], who played at the opening, first attached the place, but their attachment has been lifted. Among local creditors are a lumber company and hardware firm.”

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[1] Boundaries between communities in the Springs are and have been flexible. Baron’s Villa Tract, on the Highway just north of Agua Caliente Creek, is considered to be in Boyes Hot Springs today. Rosenthal’s Resort, opposite Baron’s, was also sometimes placed in Verano. However, on maps it appears that Verano is on the south side of Agua Caliente Creek. See maps.

[2] I wonder what they were militant about?

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The paper was not shy about touting Harry Fine’s “pull” with the sheriff’s office. Cigarettes were cheap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Things got so bad for Wolf Baron, that rumors circulated that he had been confined to Napa State Hospital. These were unfounded.

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Baron was out of the picture, but Coney Island was still a popular venue, this time for “pictures.” In September of 1923, film producer, director, actor and flimflam artist Harold “Josh” Binney leased Coney Island for the headquarters of his company, which was supposed to turn Sonoma into Hollywood North. He started work on a proposed series of silent comedies, but, after cashing a bad check, he decamped to Montana. Evading extradition to California, he was instead arrested and tried in Montana for a similar scheme. After serving time in Montana, he went on to have a long career in Hollywood including directing Cab Calloway in “Hi De Ho” in 1947. The film Binney shot before his departure is an important historical archive of Sonoma Valley. (More to come on Mr. Binney.)

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Now the parking lot of Mary’s Pizza

The intrigue continued in 1924 when a Mrs. Soito filed a slander suit against Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith, who were the caretakers at Coney Island at the time.

“A rift in the lute (?!sic!) of this year’s Boyes Springs Carnival when rivalry in the queen contest broke up the committees and led to open warfare between the contestants…” a scenario worthy of Christopher Guest. (and what does “a rift in the lute” mean?)

“Mrs. Soito, who is the mother of Harriet Hunt, one of the pretty little girls who was out for queen, alleges in a complaint filed at Santa Rosa, that Mrs. Smith, mother of the dancer and the May-pole queen defamed her in a conversation to which there were witnesses.”

Originally Mrs. Smith was charged with disturbing the peace for a dustup at Flowery School. She pled guilty and received a suspended sentence. The Smith’s were said to be “experienced show people.” And Mrs. Soito “a member of a prominent family of Contra Costs county.”

In 1924, the Sonoma Valley Athletic Club was promoting boxing matches in the Pavillion.

In 1925 there were dances under the auspices of local bigshot Louis Parente.

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Apparently Parente gave up on the resort soon after.

The annex to the pavilion burned in 1927, and in 1928 the pavilion itself was destroyed by fire, “and now only ashes tell the tale of the venture of a San Franciso tailor went into and failed,” the Index Tribune said. (Baron was one of several tailors, most of then Viennese, who came to the valley from the City to pursue their trades and other businesses. See the post https://springsmuseum.org/2019/05/27/leixner-nimpfer-weghofer/

The IT also tells us “The Coney Island site has been one with a history of ill luck. Twenty years ago (1909) a beautiful massive structure, known as Marble Hall, was put up there, and it mysteriously burned shortly after construction. The marble pillars stood for many years, a monument of the enterprise that went up in smoke.” The pillars can be seen in the photograph of the Binney studio, and several can still be found a sites around the valley.

By 1931 the Baron tract had been subdivided into building lots and houses were constructed.

And there our story ends, pending new finds.

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Collage 32 H from the Valley of the Moon Main Stem Project, Michael Acker artist. Dimensions approx 45″x14″

Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society.

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Uncategorized

Springs Museum: Statement on Racial Justice

James Baldwin, in his essay “Fifth Avenue Uptown: A Letter From Harlem,” 1960, said “It is a terrible, an inexorable, law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own: in the face of one’s victim, one sees oneself.”

And, in “East River, Downtown: Postscript to a Letter From Harlem,” 1961, “What is demanded now, and at once, is not that Negroes continue to adjust themselves to the cruel racial pressures of life in the United States but that the United States readjust itself to the facts of life in the present world.”

Now, and At Once. In 1961. Sixty-nine years ago. Ninety-six years after the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.

In 2020 we have new hope that a real movement for change has begun. It is the responsibility of white people to change themselves and our society. We, the Springs Museum along with many others, are in the process of becoming better educated about racism, white privilege, and white supremacy. Education and action must proceed together. We humbly expect to discover, in the coming months and years, what that can mean.

 

 

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Agua Caliente, Boyes Hot Springs, Photographs, Resorts, Springs Historic Photo Database

New to the Springs Historic Photo Database

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1916. Gaslights possibly converted to electricity, which came in in 1913.

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Date unknown. The pool was covered in the 1950s.

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1914. The viewer is standing approximately where the parking lot behind the post office is now. The red building on the right is Graham’s Store, the location of the first post office in Boyes.

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18340 sonoma Highway. burned down in 1979. See the post “The Greengrass Bldg.”

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Architecture, Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, Entertainment, History, mid-century, People, Sports

May 28, 1959

This day, sixty one years ago. Eighteen pages in the issue. What happened that day? Things small and large, meaningful and trivial. Presented with just a few comments and notes.

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Valley Mourns Oscar Larson-See page 14 for an editorial appreciation of this important figure in mid-twentieth century Boyes Hot Springs.

Incorporation, Bank sought at Boyes –“’A committee to form a committee’” to work for incorporation of Boyes Hot Springs as a full-fledged city, was appointed Tuesday at noon meeting of the Boyes Hot Springs Merchants Association, held at Sonoma Mission Inn.” Zan Stark Jr., Harry Phinney and Milton Greger were appointed to “establish a “citizens committee” to “sell” the incorporation plan in the area.”

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More about Oscar Larson. Dr. Ronald Scott fished in Oregon. Big News! (Oregon keeps coming up in this issue.)

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You could get a permit to burn things.

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“Never used anything like it,” say users of Berlou mothspray, odorless, stainless, and guaranteed to stop moths for five whole years. Simmons Pharmacy, WE 8-2039.

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“Bob Fouts, sportscaster for the San Francisco 49ers and other athletic events of both radio and television, plans to spend the summer in the Valley of the Moon, the Index Tribune learned this week. Fouts, his wife and five children will reside in the Bel Aire development near the Sonoma golf Course, where they will temporarily rent a home during the summer months.” Just a few years later, Dan Fouts would be starring at quarterback for the University of Oregon, which is mentioned page 17.

Page 6

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Mary’s opens!

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Merchants meeting continued:

“Help from an outside source in the merchants’ fight to retain the identity of the Boyes Hot Springs Post office came at the meeting when Harry Kay of Santa Rosa, member of the State and County Democratic Central committee pledged his aid.”

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“The El Verano Improvement club members will meet on June 12 at the clubhouse on Riverside Drive.”

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“Key figures in Valley of the Moon Little League…Gene Morreton, August Sebastiani, J. Bettencourt, C.M. Marsh, Carl Ellason, Betty Thomas, Thelma Ashley, Paul Marcucci Sr., Bud Butts…”

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New Safeway Store to be Discussed By City Planners”, “No Setting Aside of Prunes This Year.

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Mario Ciampi is recognized in Life Magazine for design of Sassarini Elementary School.

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Oscar Larson remembered. A letter to the editor about Valley Unification.

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Justin Murray Combo at the Palms Inn!

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“Dr. and Mrs. Michael Mikita of Sobre Vista returned home recently after spending five days in Eugene, Oregon, visiting their son, Michael who is a freshman at the University of Oregon.”

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Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society

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Uncategorized

New to the Springs Historic Photo Database

The Northwestern Pacific Railroad published yearly booklets advertising all the resorts along its route. here is a sampling from the 1925 edition. Courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society. If you would like to use any of these images, please contact them first.

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Petaluma Ave. location

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Acacia Grove Mobile Court location

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Fetters Ave. at Highway 12

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Uncategorized

18340 Sonoma Highway- the Greengrass Building

Frank Greengrass started out as an insurance salesman. He started working with Realtor Sol Becker in 1953, an event that rated right up there with the arrival of the Green Bay Packers ( though they were the “cellar dwellers of the National Professional Football League!”)

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In February of 1956, Frank Greengrass located his real estate firm to the newly remodeled building at 18340 Sonoma Highway. (On the same page the grand re-opening of the Woodleaf Market (https://springsmuseum.org/2018/11/07/the-woodleaf-store-big-three/), also remodeled, was announced, along with the relocation of attorney Jack Coffey’s practice from San Francisco to Boyes Hot springs, with offices in the Greengrass building.) Note also that the Boyes Bath House had record crowds and that “Mr. and Mrs. Frank Burmis of Sonoma are proud owners of a brand new 1956 seafoam green Cadillac Coupe DeVille…” Times were high in Sonoma Valley!

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The 707 area code was introduced in 1959. The building burned in 1979, dating this photo in a twenty year span

The date of construction is unknown, but possibly early 1950s. The original owner is also unknown. Please comment if you have information.

In 1963, part of the space in the building was rented out to Nick’s Barber Shop.

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The Greengrass firm, renamed Sonoma Properties, prospered, it’s ads in the IT becoming bigger by the year. However, on May 17, 1979, the building burned to the ground.

Incredibly quickly by today’s standards, one year and one week later, Greengrass, with the help of architect Victor Conforti, Lely Construction, and a host of other tradesmen and suppliers, opened his brand new building at the same address. He invited the public to the opening with a full page ad in the Index Tribune.

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The building next door once housed Zan Stark’s Valley of the Moon Daily Review newspaper. See the Zan photo below.

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Greengrass had sold the building to Henry Mayo in 1972.

 

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Photo by Zan Stark, circa 1953. See “we’re moving in,” above.

 

Sonoma Properties continued in business at the Sonoma Highway address until December of 1989. In December of 1990, La Luz opened in it first location in the building.  La Luz moved to their current Gregor Street location in 1993.

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In the 1990s, the Index Tribune published news in Spanish.

Frank Greengrass retired in 1992 and died in 1999, aged 83.

The years 1993-2002 remain a mystery unresolvable through the Index Tribune archives. Please help!

Springs Unity Partnership

In 1999 the Springs Unity Partnership (Springs Up) was founded to “help the residents of El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, Boyes Hot Springs and Agua Caliente improve their communities and gain representation at the county level.”

In 2002 Springs Up established a nonprofit and opened the Springs Resource Center at 18340 Sonoma Highway. The Center hosted meetings, classes, and workshops under executive director Julie Zak. The nonprofit’s board was led by Steve Cox.

According to Ms. Zak, “the effect of 9/11 took its toll on most Sonoma Valley non-profits and the board of Springs Up chose to fold rather than competing for funds that would impact longstanding non-profits in the community. The assets of the non-profit were distributed throughout the community before closing doors in 2004.”

Editorial aside: The original goal of Springs Up, to “help the residents of El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, Boyes Hot Springs and Agua Caliente improve their communities and gain representation at the county level,” is very much needed today. Would that it could be a model for future action. If so, can we get Julie back? Please?

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In 2008 the building housed a party supply store. Note the absence of sidewalks and street lights. The sign in the window next door says “Mobile Automotive Repair and Service.”

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By 2012, the Metro PCS store was in place, as it is today (2020) and the building next door was colorfully painted.

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2017. Tropical paint job next door is gone.

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 April 2020

Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society. Other photos by Google Street View, the author or from the author’s collection.

 

 

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Agua Caliente, Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, History, Place Names/Street Names

Sonoma Highway

UPDATE at the end of the post.

Highway 12 is thought by Breck Parkman, retired State Parks archeologist, to have originally been a mammoth trail from the valley that is now the Bay out to the Russian River.

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The Diseño is a hand-drawn map showing the boundaries of a land grant, used in Alta California during the Mexican period. Several were drawn for the Rancho Agua Caliente, which encompassed the Springs area. Ecological historian Arthur Dawson interprets it this way:

“The mission is on the far right, Hwy 12 route is marked ‘camino de sonoma’–For some reason it changes from grey to red just west of ‘Portuzuelo’, which means a pass or a gap and I would bet refers to the area around the CalFire station by the Regional Park. In a car it’s not very noticeable, but on foot or horseback it does qualify as a pass. Also notice the Casa de Rancho, somewhere near Fiesta Market; Agua Caliente; and ‘siembra’ which means ‘plowed field. Arroyo Grande is Sonoma Creek. Corte de Madera is the neighborhood of Atwood Ranch. ‘Arroyo de los Guilucos’ =Nunn’s Canyon. Outline of the ranch is in red as is part of the road, which is a little confusing. But once you know that it makes sense.”

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California State Highway 12, know as Sonoma Highway from the Town of Sonoma to Santa Rosa, once referred to as the Santa Rosa Road, is the main street of the old resort area of Sonoma Valley, including Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs, and Agua Caliente. Only a little west of the Highway is El Verano, the fourth settlement in the resort quartet. The entire road runs from Sebastopol in the west, to the town of San Andreas in the Gold Country to the east. In Napa County it runs through the Carneros region. It was there that photographer Charles O’Rear snapped the picture that was to become “Bliss,” the Microsoft screen saver that some claim is the most viewed photograph in history (see note.)

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Sonoma Highway at Spain St. in Sonoma

According to Californiahighways.org (a massive resource!):

“Historically, this route is close to the original “El Camino Real” (The Kings Road). A portion of this route has officially been designated as part of “El Camino Real.

The portion of this route running through Sonoma County is called the “Valley of the Moon Scenic Route“. “Valley of the Moon” was the name Jack London, resident of Glen Ellen, coined for this area. The first such sign with this name is when the Farmers Lane portion ends in Santa Rosa.

South of the town of Sonoma, Route 12 is called Broadway until it intersects Route 121 near Schellville. Route 12/Route 121 to Napa County is called alternately “Fremont Drive” or “Carneros Highway.” The latter term continues into Napa County.“https://www.cahighways.org/009-016.html#012

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At Calistoga Rd. in Santa Rosa.

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  1. First mention in the IT of the “Santa Rosa Road.”

P.L. McGill, Road Overseer of the township, in addition to the improvements on the Napa road, mention of which was made a few weeks ago, has just finished repairing the Petaluma road from Agnew’s Lane to the dividing line between Sonoma and Vallejo townships. This piece of road, which has been a terror to wagon spokes and horse flesh in times past, is now in fine traveling condition. Mr. McGill at present is engaged in grading from Gibson’s to Drummond’s on the Santa Rosa road and eventually expects to have every bad road in his township in a through state of repair.

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In 1917, arguing for highway improvements, the IT states “There were beaten paths to the hot springs a century ago and as far back as 1850, the Sonoma Bulletin began the plea for a better connecting link through the Sonoma Valley to Santa Rosa.”

On these maps of Agua Caliente from 1888, the road from Sonoma to Santa Rosa is called Main Street.

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In 1938 Bessie L. Mantifel applied for a liquor license for her Hollywood Inn, located on W. S. State Highway #12, El Verano, Sonoma County.

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Promotional match book covers and brochures had maps inside.

 

Before the 1964 renumbering, this route was signed as Sign Route 12 for most of its length. However, SR 12 was designated as Legislative Route 51 (LR 51) from SR 116 to SR 121.

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1940 Census map.

Note on “Bliss”:

In January 1996 former National Geographic photographer Charles O’Rear was on his way from his home in St. Helena, California, in the Napa Valley north of San Francisco, to visit his girlfriend, Daphne Irwin (whom he later married), in the city, as he did every Friday afternoon. He was working with Irwin on a book about the wine country. He was particularly alert for a photo opportunity that day, since a storm had just passed over and other recent winter rains had left the area especially green.[4] Driving along the Sonoma Highway (California State Route 12 and 121) he saw the hill, free of the vineyards that normally covered the area; they had been pulled out a few years earlier following a phylloxera infestation.[5] “There it was! My God, the grass is perfect! It’s green! The sun is out; there’s some clouds,” he remembered thinking. He stopped somewhere near the NapaSonomacounty line and pulled off the road to set his Mamiya RZ67 medium-format camera on a tripod, choosing Fujifilm‘s Velvia, a film often used among nature photographers and known to saturate some colors.[1][6] O’Rear credits that combination of camera and film for the success of the image. “It made the difference and, I think, helped the ‘Bliss’ photograph stand out even more,” he said. “I think that if I had shot it with 35 mm, it would not have nearly the same effect.”[7] While he was setting up his camera, he said it was possible that the clouds in the picture came in. “Everything was changing so quickly at that time.” He took four shots and got back into his truck.[4][8] According to O’Rear, the image was not digitally enhanced or manipulated in any way. [9

Over the next decade it has been claimed to be the most viewed photograph in the world during that time.[3] Other photographers have attempted to recreate the image, some of which have been included in art exhibitions. Wikipeidia

Paste copy of cease and desist order from Microsoft here.

 

Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society

Diseño courtesy Bancroft Library

2nd Agua Caliente map courtesy Jeff Gilbert

In 1924 we celebrated the opening of the newly paved highway. It was quite a grand event! Chairman of the State Highway Commission Harvey Toy is mentioned. There is a Toy Lane in Boyes Hot Springs.

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Art, Boyes Hot Springs, Collection/Obsession, Neighborhood Phenomena, Photographs, Wonders and Marvels

Twenty-four Views of the Tank

Artists and obsession:

Hokusai created the Thirty-Six Views both as a response to a domestic travel boom and as part of a personal obsession with Mount Fuji.[5]Wikipedia

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Artists, aging, and obsession:

“I have drawn things since I was 6. All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting. At 73 I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At 90 I will enter into the secret of things. At 110, everything – every dot, every dash – will live. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age, I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'” ~ Hokusai

“Mount Fuji is a popular subject for Japanese art due to its cultural and religious significance. This belief can be traced to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where a goddess deposits the elixir of life on the peak. As the historian Henry Smith[3] explains, “Thus from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai’s own obsession with the mountain.”[4]Wikipedia

Here in Boyes Hot Springs, we have a similarly visible, tall monument, and while the Spa does not claim to bestow eternal life, it definitely makes life more enjoyable, and is a worthy subject of an artist’s obsession.

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“It all adds up to a reminder that, even as the art historians have been slowly trying to squeeze the history our their discipline, artists have been assiduously turning them selves in to historians, archivists even collectors of a sort.” Barry Schwabsky, The Nation Magazine, April 2014

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SMISpaimage

“Historically revered by Native Americans for its healing power, the elegant Spanish mission–style Inn boasts an enviable location atop an ancient thermal mineral spring, flowing from 1,100 feet below the surface. The tranquility and beauty of this environment is echoed throughout the 40,000-square-foot spa, which offers endless opportunities to find your energy.” From the SMI website

 

Photographs courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the author.

 

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