Boyes Hot Springs, History, Now and Then, Resorts

The Center of Town

The corners Sonoma Highway makes with Boyes Blvd. and Vallejo Ave. are the heart of Boyes Hot Springs. From the 1890s to now, it has been our commercial hub. Many buildings are gone, but significant ones remain, if altered. The Post Office has been there, in three different buildings, for over one hundred years. Many new businesses thrive and more are planned. During the season, we now have a weekly farmers market.

The path the highway follows was probably originated by mastadons migrating to the coast. Boyes Blvd. and Vallejo Ave. came along much later, during the early 20th century, when speculators started to subdivide the land.

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Only the highway ( called “Road to Santa Rosa”) was there in 1860 when the United States Court confirmed Thaddeus Leavenworth’s claim to 534 and 62/100 acres of land in the Rancho Agua Caliente, land that was to become Boyes Hot Springs, Agua Caliente, and Fetters hot Springs.

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The highway is just called “County Road” in the 1916 Hotel Grounds subdivision map, which also show Boyes Blvd. but does not extend to the east, so no Vallejo.

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Possibly the oldest photographs of the location are scenes of The Club House (Red roof in lower photo, shown on the Hotel Grounds map), Grahams Store, and other businesses, from around 1910.

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A beautiful 1939 shot shows the entrance to the Sonoma Mission Inn, the Richfield Station, Jim’s café, other businesses and the palm tree in the center of “Boyes Plaza.”

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Shot from slightly farther south, this 1930s photo also show Jim’s, in the distance, and two buildings in the foreground that are still there in 2019.

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Now looking south at the Center Building, that housed Jim’s, past the corner of Vallejo Ave.

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The southwest corner with the Woodleaf Store, around the same time (1930s).

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This 1943 Naval aerial photo shows the train depot and palm tree in the upper right corner.

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In the early 1950s, the Plaza Center building replaced the Boyes Plaza. The Center  Building (opposite side of the highway) has become Polidori’s 5 + 10 cent store.

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The Mission Inn entrance in the 1950s. On the right, signs for Gallo Brothers Service, Mike And Rose’s market and the C.O.G. club.

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A little later in the 50s, Polidori’s has become the Boyes Variety store. The Woodleaf Market sign is promienent on the right, as well as Betty’s Cut and Curl.

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In 1955 the Chamber of Commerce issued a map showing many local businesses, including ones at our corner.

The Big three closed in 2016, never to reopen? Buildings come and go. It’s inevitable. But preservation should be important to all of us. Let’s hope we can do what is needed to preserve the Big Three/Woodleaf from demolition.

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Two artistic interpretations of the intersection from the Valley of the Moon Main Stem Project, by Michael Acker.

Thanks to Arthur Dawson for the Leavenworth Plat interpetation and general info. Other images courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society, the Sonoma County Recorder’s Office, and Stanford Library Special Collections.

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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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Art, Boyes Hot Springs, History, nature

Neighborhood Phenomena

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Strawberries among the weeds, in concrete, Boyes Hot Springs, 2019

NEIGHBORHOOD PHENOMENA

With thanks to artist Jack Baker

One of the main objects of the Springs Museum is the study of Neighborhood Phenomena.

Perhaps not to define it to precisely is best. However, we can say that NP may be exceptional things or mundane things seen in an exceptional way. Collecting (and it is an exercise in collecting) NP is an act of noticing, something that it is all to easy not to do in an environment that is so familiar as we pass through it daily.

Photography is a good mode for collecting NP, as is sketching, sound recording, rubbings, or actually picking up objects (but try not to disturb the environment. Observers should limit their impact on the world being observed.) Study over time is of interest, so repeated visits to sites are encouraged.

Here is a list of some of the possible categories to look at.

How trees and built environment interact

Signs. What they say, how they change.

Pavement and how is deteriorates.

Plants in all their many different forms

Animals among us, including pets

Infrastructure such as wires, drains, etc.

Design-everything built is designed, if only by default

Holes in the ground

Mounds of things

Stories

Further Inspiration: Artists as collectors. Collections as art:

“The mission of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is to inspire wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.”

“Including those items is part of the museum’s effort at redefinition, although the curators were drawing on an eccentric set of collections that were never really part of the natural history tradition. The facade of the building still bears its original title: Los Angeles County Historical and Art Museum. In fact, the art collection became the heart of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the early 1960s, when the “natural history” title was adopted.”

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

 

“As Ellen Dissanayake has observed, the function of art is to “make special”; as such, it can raise the “special” qualities of place embedded in everyday life, restoring them to those who created them…”

“A starting point, for artists or for anyone else, might be simply learning to look around where you live now…”

“Psychologist Tony Hiss asks us to measure our closeness to neighbors and community and suggests ways to develop an “experiential watchfulness” over our regional “sweet spots,” or favorite places. Seeing how they change at different times of day, week and year can stimulate local activism…”

Quotes from The Lure of the Local, Lucy R. Lippard

 

The collection, and, by extension, the museum is a work of art:

“Bottle Village began as a practical need to build a structure to store Grandma Prisbrey’s pencil collection (which eventually numbered 17,000) and a bottle wall to keep away the smell and dust from the adjacent turkey farm. However, it was her ability to have fun and infuse wit and whimsy into what she made, which over time became the essence of Bottle Village. Practicality alone would not explain The Leaning Tower of Bottle Village, the Dolls Head Shrine, car-headlight-bird-baths, and the intravenous-feeding-tube-firescreen, a few examples of her delightfully idiosyncratic creations.” From the Bottle Village website. http://www.bottlevillage.com/

17,000 Pencils!

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Boyes Hot Springs, History, Now and Then

Boyes Springs Mineral Water

 

In 1914, the Sonoma Vista Land Company, Harvey Toy, President, advertised in the San Francisco Examiner for a  train excursion to Boyes Hot Springs:

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“home sites $195 and up” and…”Boyes Springs mineral water served free on the grounds.”

Sonoma Vista was subdivision on the west side of Sonoma Creek, south of Boyes Blvd.

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In January of 1918 the Index Tribune stated that “The bottling works of the now famed Boyes Springs Mineral Water has been put in the charge of Fred J. Hansen, popular musician and poultry man.” (A talented guy, apparently!) And “The management of the mineral water concern is no small matter as $25,000 worth of water was bottled and marketed last season.”

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By 1925, the concern was managed by one H. Peterson, according to the IT. “Physician recommend the use of this water as a corrective for stomach and related troubles…Try a case and enthuse more and more over Boyes Springs,” the reporter stated, severely blurring the line between news and advertising.

Baseball players also enjoyed it, according to the Oakland Tribune in 1947:

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The bottling plant, as shown on the County Recorder’s map of the Hotel Grounds subdivision, was adjacent to the Bath House near Boyes Blvd.

(See https://springsmuseum.org/history/documents/maps/)

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The building survived and has gone through a number of incarnations.

1980s:

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2009:

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And inspired some art:

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Artist: Michael Acker

Images courtesy of Sonoma Valley Historical Society, Robert Parmelee, and the author’s collection.

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