Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, History, Photographs, Resorts, Uncategorized

Railroads in Sonoma Valley


The history of railroads in Sonoma Valley is complicated and confusing. It started in the 1860s and included at least 15 different companies, but by 1889 there we just two: the Santa Rosa and North Pacific, and the Northern Railway. The SR and NP became the Northwestern Pacific in 1907, and Southern Pacific subsumed the Northern in 1898. The NWP tracks were on the east side of Sonoma Creek, with a depot in Boyes Hot Springs, and SP on the west, stopping at El Verano. The old rights-of-way can be glimpsed in some places. Sierra Drive in Boyes is one location. See

A precursor to the NWP, the Sonoma Valley Railroad, existed until 1889. In this schedule we see that it visited a stop called Pioneer Grove. This was the name used before Boyes Springs was used.

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The railroads served the populace of San Francisco, primarily, who wished to spend warm summer days at the resorts. They came in their thousands by rail. But as early as 1920, the railroads were challenged by bus lines and automobiles. (The “auto-camp,” precursor to the motel, originated in the 1920s.) The Index Tribune reported in 1921 that executives of the NWP were considering new, modern electric cars on the Santa Rosa-San Rafael line to counter the competition from buses. To no avail. In 1930, the Glen Ellen depot was eliminated.


The editorial comment in the IT was prophetic. Rail service was gone by 1942.

Following is a collection of images of depots in Sonoma Valley, with some maps, which are courtesy of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society.


NWP depots:


Agua Caliente, year unknown


A later Agua Caliente depot? Similar to Boyes Depot of 1923



The name was changed to Boyes Hot Spring at least by 1908, but Model T production started in 1909, so perhaps all of the signs were not changed at one time.


Marie and Elsie stand in front of a depot called “Boyes Springs,” in 1921. apparently the word “Hot” in the name came and went. This station was destroyed in the fire of 1923.


1916 map showing the old hotel and the canal that ran down Pine Street.


Still from the 1923 Harold Binney movie “Account of the no-account Count.” The film shows the train arriving at Fetters Springs.


Boyes Hot Springs depot in 1942, the year service ended. The Woodleaf Store can be seen behind the depot.


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The Verano depot, across the creek from El Verano.



Glen Ellen, year unknown.

Southern Pacific depots:


Eldridge depot 1898


El Verano, circa 1890s


El Verano depot shortly after construction, 1880s

Images courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society.


Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, History, Photographs, Resorts, Springs Historic Photo Database

New to the Springs Historic Photo Database


Probably around 1910


His name is Gus. Post marked Boyes Hot Springs, but is this the Plaza? 1912


The “Old Hotel.” Before 1923


El Verano Villa. Near Verano Ave. and the creek.


Gables Hotel. Exact location unknown.


Sonoma Mission Inn, 1937, ten years after it was completed.


Sonoma Grove, on the Highway between Sonoma and Boyes.

Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, Photographs, Springs Historic Photo Database

New to the Springs Historic Photo Database: From the Ron Price Collection


The porch at the Bellvue Hotel, El Verano, before 1911.


Promenade at the Boyes springs Hotel, 1920.


Boyes Resort Theater, 1921.


Camp Grounds at Fetters Resort


Hotel at Boyes Springs, 1920s


Little Switzerland, El Verano, 1954


Parente Resort, El Verano, before 1920


Sonoma Mission Inn, Boyes Hot Springs, 1938


St. Francis Villa boarding House, El Verano, 1915

Architecture, El Verano, History, mid-century, Resorts, Uncategorized


Rozarios’ resort, the successor to Parente’s Villa, was located on Verano Avenue between the Highway and the bridge.

Louis Parente, a notorious bar owner, fight promoter and would-be politician, came to El Verano in 1906 from San Francisco. (Please see Jeff Elliot’s great for much more on Parente:

By 1925 he had built a “new” hotel.


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According to the Index Tribune, “The 43 room hotel, hut, cottages and grounds were purchased by the Rozarios in 1943, and it was on January 1, 1944 that they opened it for business. The former San Francisco and Marin county residents had purchased the property from Joe Parente [actually Louis Parente], colorful Bay Area sports figure who brought many prize fighters here to train.”

Rozario’s was popular through the 1950s for wedding receptions, fashion shows, and formal dinners.


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The Rozarios sold the resort to Carl Innskeep and Joe La Rango in 1955.

It later became known as the El Verano Inn.ElVeranoInnweb

The buildings were torn down in 1985 to make way for an extension of the Finnish American Home Association’s housing complex for retired people, which was located behind the old resort building. In that year, the editor of the FAHA Manor News explained in a letter to the editor of the Index Tribune that FAHA wanted to preserve the building, but “could not afford the very expensive improvements necessary…” Thus we lost another piece of our history.RozariosTornDown1985clip



El Verano, History, Resorts, Uncategorized

Crane’s Hotel/Our Resort/McNeilly’s


UPDATE! New to our Historic Photo Database, this image of Our Resort during the early years of Rose Pensar’s ownership. The horse and rider are on the present Willow Street, Second Avenue then (circa 1924). The auto and driver, Verano Avenue, which was called Arbor Avenue at the time. (Author’s collection)

First, the confusion.

There was a Crane’s Hotel, and a Crane’s Sanitarium. Cranes Hotel was at the corner of Willow and Verano Avenue, and existed as early as 1908, according to an advertisement in the Press Democrat. Crane’s Sanitarium was “between Boyes Hot Springs and El Verano,” according to an ad they placed in the Index Tribune in 1921, and “Near Verano Station, between Boyes Hot Springs and Sonoma City. Just off the highway,” according to a tourist guidebook from around 1920.

Crane’s Sanitarium was the precursor to Sonoma Valley Hospital (Please see Crane’s Hotel became Our Resort, then McNeilly’s Tavern. The two establishments, the sanitarium and the resort, were not one and the same.cranesshotelcraneshoteltrees1912Post marked 1912.

An Index Tribune archive search does not turn up much for Crane’s Hotel. The span of years between the first and last mention of Crane’s Hotel is 1908-1916. It became Our Resort sometime after 1916. Rose Pensar is listed as owner in 1924 and mentioned in 1938 as being “of Our Resort.” There is a 1924 Oakland Tribune ad for Our Resort.pressdemo1908craneshotel oaklandtrib1916craneshotelourresortoaklandtrib1924ourresort2webourresort1web

Baseball was very important in Sonoma Valley for many years. In May of 1935, Our Resort hosted The Greyhounds team from San Francisco. In later years, the resort sponsored a softball team that won many local championships.ourresortchampions

Notice that the ad says “Just West of the New Bridge.” The new bridge on Verano Avenue opened on September 17, 1950. The map shows the location of the old bridge and, at the time, proposed new one. After the new bridge was completed, the county tried to sell the old steel trusses, but there were no takers.oldevbridgemapelveranobridge

McNeilly’s opened in February, 1981, with a “new 25 inch color TV,” according to the Index Tribune. The pool table was replaced by a Space Invaders game. The Tavern was still in business, and still sponsoring sports teams, into the 2000s.After it closed, the building was vacant and derelict, and seemed headed for demolition. But, early in 2017, new owners had a new foundation installed, and it appears the structure will be saved, if not “restored.” Tearing off the siding revealed the old “Our Resort” sign. Perhaps that can be preserved as a memorial to the history of the building and the days of the resorts.ourresort2017February 2017