Update: please also see https://springsmuseum.org/2018/11/07/the-woodleaf-store-big-three/ for the post about the Woodleaf Store.
Film magnates, fatal accidents and paved (!) highways share space with the beginning of Marion Greene’s career as postmaster. (Stay tuned for the story about the film magnates.) And, yes, they called it the “Springs” in 1923.
Marion Greene was a businesswomen of Boyes Hot Springs in the mid-twentieth century. Many women were prominent in business around this time. Mary Fazio of Mary’s Pizza Shack, Pine Wagner, the pharmacist, and Jerry Casson were her contemporaries. Emma Fetters was a few years earlier, Juanita Musson a bit later. In 1947 she became a founding member of the Sonoma Valley business and Professional Women’s club. 75 women attend the first meeting.
In November of 1923, Marion Lovett Greene, proprietor of the Woodleaf Store, was appointed acting post master of the Boyes Hot Springs post office and was waiting to take the exam to qualify as the permanent post master. There as quite a bit of competition for the job among local grocers, the Index Tribune noted. ”Postage stamp sales lead to pork-and-bean sales and love letter inquiries increase pickles sales, so naturally the store keepers want to serve Uncle Sam’s patrons, even if the salary of post master itself is not very remunerative.” She did become the regular post master and stayed in the job until at least 1939.
Her Woodleaf store was in the Kellar building in 1932, we are told. The same year she move “across the street” to the Putnam building, which presumably was the building at the corner of Boyes Blvd and Sonoma highway, where the Woodleaf Store stayed as it later became the Big Three. In 1938 Ms. Greene was appointed the Greyhound Bus agent for the Springs as well.
Mrs. Greene served as president of the Sonoma County Grocers Association and the state association, and was active in the California Post Masters Association.
She was named Outstanding citizen of the year 1948 by the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce. In 1949, as chair of the Travel and Recreation Committee, she spearheaded the effort to establish the Valley of the Moon Scenic Route along Highway 12. As part of her duties with the Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Greene appeared on Paul Marcucci’s radio show, broadcast from his resort.
Marion Greene built two houses in Boyes Hot Springs in the 1940s. In 2019 Marion’s grand- daughter came to Boyes Hot Springs to sell the houses that her grandmother built and gave us a tour. The interiors were all Ms. Greene’s design, and quite charming, featuring custom cabinets and many built-ins.
An artifact found in the out-buildings attested to Ms. Greene’s involvement with local development and business.
In 1949 local boosters celebrated the “centennial” of Boyes Hot Springs. This is puzzling since Captain Boyes did not arrive until 1885, however, they were dating from the arrival of T.M. Leavenworth, who bought hundreds of acres in the Rancho Agua Caliente from Vallejo in 1849. See Leavenworth’s House.
The commemorative tie features the image of a mule because that was the mascot of Boyes Springs at the time. Mules live long lives, but it’s doubtful Peskie was still there in 1949.
Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society. Photographs by author and from author’s collection.
Pine Avenue is shown on a County recorder’s map “Hotel Grounds Subdivision” which dates to before 1923. On that map there is a canal, starting near the hotel, crossing Boyes Blvd., and running down Pine Avenue. It ends in a large pond adjacent to the entrance of the Bath House. The canal did not exist long, if at all. Photos of the Bath House entrance from the 1920s show no pond.
On the fourth of August, 1916, the Boyes Hot Springs corporation, which owned all the land around the hotel which is now the Sonoma Mission Inn, sold lot numbers 155 and 156 (actually on Northside St., parallet to Pine) of the Hotel Grounds subdivision to Mary O. Cookson. She was enjoined by the boiler plate language of the “indenture” (deed) not to drill for water and, in the overt racism typical of the day, not to allow the occupation of the property by “Asiatics or negroes.”
The signers of the deed for the Corporation were Henry Trevor and R. G. Lichtenberg. Lichtenberg became a proprietor of the Boyes Bath House, and a street is named for him in that vicinity.
The principle resort on Pine Avenue was the Evergreen Cottages, which dates from the early 1920s. The main building, housing a bar know variously as Mary’s or Leo’s was on Pine, but the resort extended to Northside St. In the center of the cottages was an open area said to have been a boxing ring. This is plausible as the training of fighters was common in the Springs in the era before WWII. Louis Parente was well known for hosting workouts at his place in El Verano.
In February of 1940 the Index Tribune and dozens of local businesses welcome the San Francisco Seals to the baseball grounds at Boyes Hot Springs for spring training. Among them was Mary’s Evergreen Cottages. Their boxed ad boasted “dancing, sulphur baths swimming.” The baths and swimming were courtesy of the Boyes Bath House at the end of Pine Avenue, and dancing might have been in the large square area in the center of the cottage cluster.
On September 16, 1949, William Johnson and Milton Gregor, proprietors of the Boyes Bath House, leased Leo’s Evergreen to Thomas Mayhew and Celanire Mayhew. The Mayhews gave notice, the same day, that they would engage in the sale of alcoholic beverages at the Evergreen.
In April of 1951, Ruby Coronas bought the Evergreen Resort from Johnson and Greger.In 1955 she celebrated the fourth anniversary with an ad in the IT.
Joe, a native of Spain, died in Sonoma in 1971. Ruby died the same year, in Colusa.
In May of 1954, the Jack London Lodge of the American Legion hosted a candidates night at the Evergreen Resort. “Post commander Ed Reedy said that all candidates for federal, state, and county offices had been invited to be present, and that “most of them” had signified they will attend…” According to a June 3rd article in the IT, some of the candidates were Charles E. Greenfield, for state senator, 12th district, Oscar Larson for a Republican central committee post, and James J. Manning, of Boyes Hot Springs, unopposed for constable in the Sonoma judicial district. (Do we still have a constable?) Interestingly, among the polling places was Perkin’s Memorial Hall on Agua Caliente Rd., location unknown today. The Verano East polling place is listed as the Grange Hall on Highway 12, showing how notions of the boundaries between communities shifted over time as the (former) Grange Hall is now considered to be in Boyes Hot Springs. Archaic places names that had polling places included Cooper, Eaton, and San Luis.
The resort was for sale in 1996 for $449,000. It was said to be in “part of the up and coming area of Boyes Hot Springs.”
Another resort on Pine was the Golden Oaks, which was on the corner of Pine and Northside, or Pine and Gregor, depending on which source you chose. In a 1968 article the Index Tribune gave the address as 130 Pine, which would put it at the Gregor end.
The first mention of the resort in the IT is in 1932. From 1938 to 1950 a Mr. and Mrs. Zinkulsen owned and operated it. In 1950 they sold to Bertha I. Donnelson. In the notice of the transaction the Golden Oaks was said to consist of eleven cottages and an owner’s residence.
Crime on Pine
Apparently Pine Avenue was a rough place in 1950. Around 11PM on September 8 of that year a street brawl broke out between seven young men, according to the IT headline. However, in the story it turned out that twelve youths were arrested and three were in the hospital, one with his “belly cut open.” He survived.
16 Pine Avenue was an interesting looking building. Apparently a store, it was in use as a residence up to 2009. It was boarded up in 2010 and demolished in 2019. In 1969, the federal Office of Housing and Urban Development was contacted by Boyes Springs Resort owner Luis Vela about a redevelopment program for the Springs. According to the IT, “Vela said he had conferred with HUD officials and others from San Francisco on the Boyes redevelopment plan. Preliminary proposals set this up on a three-stage basis. The first area to be upgraded under such a pilot project, said Vela, might be the section between the creek and Highway 12…”
These photos, courtesy of Sonoma County Library, show an area, Pine Avenue, that could be included in the project. 16 Pine Avenue is shown. Redevelopment did no start in earnest until the late 1990s. We got sidewalks and street lights and some improvements to commercial buildings before Jerry Brown abolished redevelopment statewide in 2011. The sidewalk project was completed with county funds in 2016.
In 2004 a new development was built at Pine and Gregor. It consists of nine, small, two story homes plus an older home that was remodeled. Four of the units were meant to be “affordable.” John Bonfini was the developer. I believe the Bonfini development was built on the Golden Oaks site. Photo of the “older home,” possibly the Golden Oaks owner’s residence.
Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonma Valley Historical Society. Photographs and maps from the author’s collection.
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 had scarcely opened its doors before financial troubles loomed. The Patriarchs’ Militant Band, 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.”
 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.
 I wonder what they were militant about?
Things got so bad for Wolf Baron, that rumors circulated that he had been confined to Napa State Hospital. These were unfounded.
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.)
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.
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.
Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society.
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.
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.”
More about Oscar Larson. Dr. Ronald Scott fished in Oregon. Big News! (Oregon keeps coming up in this issue.)
You could get a permit to burn things.
“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.
“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.
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.”
“The El Verano Improvement club members will meet on June 12 at the clubhouse on Riverside Drive.”
“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…”
“New Safeway Store to be Discussed By City Planners”, “No Setting Aside of Prunes This Year.”
Mario Ciampi is recognized in Life Magazine for design of Sassarini Elementary School.
Oscar Larson remembered. A letter to the editor about Valley Unification.
Justin Murray Combo at the Palms Inn!
“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.”
Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society
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.
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.”
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.)
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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. “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 Napa–Sonomacounty 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. 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.” 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. 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. 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.
Artists and obsession:
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 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.”” 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.
“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
“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.
In 2008 final construction drawings for “Phase 2 Stage 1” of the Highway 12 sidewalk project were issued. The drawings are detailed and very specific, as they would be. Everything is spelled out, down to the design of the hardware used to hold up mail boxes, sign details, and the depth of fence posts.
One thing that was not thought about is the space created, or delineated between the edge of the sidewalk and buildings, fences and walls along the highway. Formerly just part of the shoulder of the road, these unpaved spaces became the chaotic province of weeds and trash, unclaimed and untended by anybody.
This 300’ strip on the east side of the highway between Hawthorne and Thomson is a good example.
Other examples of wasted space.
The new sidewalks, streetlights, and other amenities provided by the project are much appreciated in the community. It’s a shame that the interstices of the design were not dealt with originally, but they now represent an opportunity for creativity and community engagement. Let a hundred fledgling landscape architects bloom!