“My intent is to reveal not only what is hidden, but also what is plainly visible and seldom noticed.”
The Springs Museum concerns itself with “History, Art and Community.” Art has been somewhat neglected until now. Wing Young Huie is not a resident of the Springs, but the art he created here constitutes an important document of the place. It is an artistic achievement and a historical archive of Boyes Hot Springs in 2007.
“I am the youngest of six and the only one in my family not born in China. For most of my life I’ve looked at my own Chinese-ness through a white, middle-class prism. Growing up in Duluth, Minnesota made it easy. After all, I was weaned on Snoopy, Mary Tyler Moore, and the Vikings. Mom made me pray to Buddha every New Year, but it was Jesus Christ Superstar who became my cultural touchstone. The result was that sometimes my own parents seemed exotic and even foreign to me.
They also were my first photographic subjects. I was twenty and living at home, experimenting with my new Minolta camera, when I made the first exposures of my dad in the kitchen. It was strange and exhilarating to look at someone so familiar so intently, and see something new. Now, some thirty years and hundreds of thousands of exposures later, I’m still trying to look at the world anew.
Inside the Springs follows my many projects that attempt to reflect the dizzying mixture of socioeconomic and ethnic realities that encompass our changing cultural landscape. My first major exhibition in 1996 focused on Frogtown, a St. Paul neighborhood plagued with a dubious reputation driven in part by media stories. I spent two years photographing the complexities and mystery behind those headlines.
I continue to focus on submerged communities that exist on the periphery of the prevailing cultural radar. My intent is to reveal not only what is hidden, but also what is plainly visible and seldom noticed.
I had never been to The Springs or Sonoma prior to my residency through the Sonoma Community Center. At the invitation of Shelly Willis, the former Artistic Director of the SCC, I spent one month photographing Boyes Hot Springs in October 2007. The process of photographing and interacting with people has remained, for the most part, the same since I photographed my own neighborhood in Duluth. I simply walk around, encountering people on the street, who then suggest or introduce others to photograph.
In this manner I meandered through the crooks and alleys of The Springs, photographing hundreds of citizens going about their daily lives. To describe a few: barbequing chickens, harvesting grapes at dawn, waiting for the school bus, a job, a blessing, a taco, dancing in the driveway, singing, jogging, mourning, celebrating, taking communion and pictures, aerobically swimming, tasting coffee and sweating communally.
It’s difficult to sum up what I saw or learned. I photographed a fraction of what is there, but I feel I saw a lot. Sometimes I get asked what is the purpose of what I do and I’m never sure how to answer. In a way, making those first photographs of my dad may have been one of the most intimate things I ever did with a man who was not easy to know. Maybe that’s the reason.
There were many who helped me along the way, including Mario Castillo and the Vineyard Workers Services, Libby Hodgson, manager of the Barking Dog, Eric Holman, Abdul and Celeste Winders, formerly of the Valley of the Moon Teen Center, Juanita Brinkley, Tarja Beck and the Finnish American Heritage Association, Ellen LaBruce and the La Luz Center, Martha Parra, Ross Drulis Cusenbery Architects, and all the folks at the Sonoma Community Center.”
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.