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.

Deseno

 

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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Fetters Hot Springs, History, Resorts

Leixner/Nimpfer/Weghofer

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The Viennese

Martin Leixner started a tailoring business in Sonoma in 1919. He was among a group of Viennese immigrants to settle the area. In 1923 he joined with another Viennese tailor, Herman Weghofer, to enlarge the business, which was located “in Fetters Springs, on the Highway, opposite the Hotel.”

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In 1924, Leixner took on another partner, a Mr. Nimpfer, and another business, that of chauffer. The next year we read in the Index Tribune that “Mrs. Putnam, two children, maid and chauffer of Commonwealth Avenue, San Francisco, spent the last week end at Leixner’s Resort, one of the attractive places of the Springs. Mr. Leixner has utilized the rocky formation of the hillside where his resort is situated for rustic stone stairways, and made it otherwise very artistic.” This is undoubtedly the same site at which his tailoring business was located. At some point, Mr. Nimpher’s name appears on the resort in place of Leixner’s.

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The new facade is dated 1933

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Herman Weghofer went on to open his Vienna Coffee Garden just a few hundred feet south of there, a few years later.

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ViennaCoffeeAd1933On Friday, September 10, 1937, the Index Tribune tells us, a large group of tailors “visited their friend, Herman Weghofer, at Vienna Gardens, in Fetters Springs… This was a veritable tailor’s convention and Mr. Weghofer, who formerly tailored for the City of Paris, was very happy.”

Index Tribune, January 1, 1954-“Death Claims Mrs. R. Nimpfer, Long Time Resident of Fetters”…..She and her husband, Gottfried, who survives her, were proprietors of a Sonoma bakery form 1924 to 1929. The later became proprietors of a grocery store and resort directly opposite the Fetters Hot Springs Hotel, which they operated for nearly 20 years, until selling to Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Roy (Rohr, actually).”

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In 1945Leixner and Nimpfer “branch” out.

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At some point the grocery was renamed Roy’s.

Fire at Roy’s Grocery, 1970 (Index Tribune photos courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society)

In later years the buildings housed various restaurants. In 2019 a photo posted on the Facebook group “You know you’re from Sonoma when..” elicited some memories:

The building on the left that has the “Grocery” sign on the front eventually became my mother-in-law’s Mexican restaurant, Mi Tienda. (see photos above.)

Oak Tree Cantina! Mmmmm!

We use to dine on the roof and watch Juanita throw people out of her establishment! 

The big one with the garage, my dad and mom leased for 5 years, it was a bar called Ev’s Stop. Lots of good times there, early 60s I think. 

I spend a lot of time in Roy’s grocery watching my mom and dad play cards in the back of the the store and sometimes I would go upstairs and watch TV. And if I got bored I would walk home I lived on Hillside Ave. 

Yeah we got on that roof also. So cool to have a birds eye view. Great just to hang out there. 

Was that in the area of Roy’s Sharon and Shorty rented there when Brian was born. 

Roy’s was the building with the two shutters sticking out. 

Loved the Oak Tree! 

I worked at the Oak Tree in the 80s…I miss that place! 

Before Oaktree it was the Hashery. 

After. It was the Oaktree first then the Hashery. 

What a great memory, the Greyhound. Doesn’t look like it changed much from the 30s to the 70s.

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Close-up showing fragment of Mexican restaurant sign, 2018.

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2009

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2008

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2015

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April 2018. Dilapidation increases. How long can these buildings stand?

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December 2018. New windows and new paint give hope!

About my first sight of these buildings: Long before I moved there (from San Francisco) I happened to take a drive down Highway 12 from Calistoga Rd. to the town of Sonoma. The setting, these buildings, and the place names, Agua Caliente, Fetters Hot Springs, Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, immediately and permanently enthralled me. I remain enthralled.

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photo collage/painting by Michael Acker

All photos by author or from his collection, except where noted. Newspaper clippings courtesy Sonoma Valley Historical Society.

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Newly discovered photo of patrons relaxing at Vienna Garden Cafe.

 

 

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

Railroads in Sonoma Valley

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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.

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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.

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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:

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Agua Caliente, year unknown

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Verano depot circa 1905

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Glen Ellen, year unknown.

Southern Pacific depots:

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Eldridge depot 1898

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El Verano, circa 1890s

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El Verano depot shortly after construction, 1880s

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

 

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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

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

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Promenade at the Boyes springs Hotel, 1920.

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Boyes Resort Theater, 1921.

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Camp Grounds at Fetters Resort

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Hotel at Boyes Springs, 1920s

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Little Switzerland, El Verano, 1954

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Parente Resort, El Verano, before 1920

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Sonoma Mission Inn, Boyes Hot Springs, 1938

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St. Francis Villa boarding House, El Verano, 1915

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Architecture, Fetters Hot Springs, History, Now and Then, Photographs, Resorts, Uncategorized

Reclamation?

This is the key historic building still standing in Agua Caliente. Apparently undergoing demolition-by-neglect, it has, in August 2018, gotten a set of new windows and a paint job. We can only hope that the structure behind the stucco still has integrity.

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Before the new paint, the ghost of the word “Mexcian” could be seen near the sidewalk. Various restarants and markets have been housed in the building.

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After paint. The windows still have the factory sticker.

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In the days of Liexner’s Resort.

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And Nimpfer’s.

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