courtesy of CalPhotos, https://calphotos.berkeley.edu/
courtesy of CalPhotos, https://calphotos.berkeley.edu/
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 https://springsmuseum.org/2018/03/29/sierra-drive-meincke-road/
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.
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.
Southern Pacific depots:
Images courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society.
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 santarosahistory.com for much more on Parente: http://santarosahistory.com/wordpress/2016/07/the-village-of-vice-in-the-valley-of-the-moon/
By 1925 he had built a “new” hotel.
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.
The Rozarios sold the resort to Carl Innskeep and Joe La Rango in 1955.
It later became known as the El Verano Inn.
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.
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 http://www.svh.com/the-evolution-of-sonoma-valley-hospital/.) Crane’s Hotel became Our Resort, then McNeilly’s Tavern. The two establishments, the sanitarium and the resort, were not one and the same.Post 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.
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.
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.
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.February 2017