Artists and obsession:
Artists, aging, and obsession:
“I have drawn things since I was 6. All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting. At 73 I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At 90 I will enter into the secret of things. At 110, everything – every dot, every dash – will live. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age, I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'” ~ Hokusai
“Mount Fuji is a popular subject for Japanese art due to its cultural and religious significance. This belief can be traced to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where a goddess deposits the elixir of life on the peak. As the historian Henry Smith explains, “Thus from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai’s own obsession with the mountain.”” Wikipedia
Here in Boyes Hot Springs, we have a similarly visible, tall monument, and while the Spa does not claim to bestow eternal life, it definitely makes life more enjoyable, and is a worthy subject of an artist’s obsession.
“It all adds up to a reminder that, even as the art historians have been slowly trying to squeeze the history our their discipline, artists have been assiduously turning them selves in to historians, archivists even collectors of a sort.” Barry Schwabsky, The Nation Magazine, April 2014
“Historically revered by Native Americans for its healing power, the elegant Spanish mission–style Inn boasts an enviable location atop an ancient thermal mineral spring, flowing from 1,100 feet below the surface. The tranquility and beauty of this environment is echoed throughout the 40,000-square-foot spa, which offers endless opportunities to find your energy.” From the SMI website
Photographs courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the author.
NOTE: Baseball, Part 1, the Exhibition at the Depot Park Museum opens Saturday, October 26, at 1PM (power or no power!) The following post is a preview of Part 2, which will open in spring of 2020.
Early in the twentieth century, the climate and healing waters of Sonoma Valley, Boyes Hot Springs in particular, were attractive to Pacific Coast League baseball teams looking for places to train.
“Boyes’ Hot Springs is rapidly becoming recognized as one of California’s chief health resorts. A few years ago this famous resort was known only to a favored few in Sonoma and Marin Counties, who were aware of the marvelous healing powers of its medicinal waters. Through the combined efforts of Dr. Parramore of Mill Valley, and former Under Sheriff Litchenberg of San Rafael, both Marin County boys, the facilities and accommodations of the springs have been developed until now it is able to house the immense number that flock to this delightful and health giving spot. Against a State wide competition the Seals have chosen Boyes’ Hot Springs for their Spring training quarters. Exhibition games will be given there in recreation park that stands on the hotel property. The owners of the teams pronounce the facilities for (training) the best in the State. There is a large swimming tank, hot and cold water baths, plunges, a gymnasium, and the best climate in California.” Sausalito News, Volume 28, Number 48, 30 November 1912 — Page 1
The League was founded in 1903. Teams initially were not associated with the major leagues and PCL baseball was considered an “outlaw” league until 1904 when an agreement was settled with Organized Baseball which made the PCL a Class A league. Still the PCL was “the only game in town” west of St. Louis until the Giants and Dodgers moved to California in 1958. Star players of the League included the DiMaggio brothers and Ted Williams which tells you something about the level of play.
We know that the San Francisco Seals, a perennial powerhouse, were holding spring training at Boyes Springs as early as 1912. In that year, as an SF Chronicle headline read, an “ Eight Acre Ball Park (is) Being Built at Boyes Hot Springs.” The Chron goes on,…” it seems certain that the Seals will have the largest ball grounds in the world (!)-and very likely the finest-in which to prepare for their pennant struggle.” Manager Cal Ewing “…is highly enthusiastic about the new quarters.” In 1913 the SF Call, in an article about opening day, declared “The Boyes Springs rooters were the most conspicuous of the bunch. Headed by Doctor Parramore and Rudie Litchenberg (sic), they arrived at noon in a big auto and they drove direct to the ball park to root for the Seals.”
Building new parks for the Seals happened every few years, it seems. In 1913, under the heading “Interesting Items From El Verano and Vicinity,” the Index tribune reported that “Dr. E.L. Parramore and R.G. Lichtenberg (owners of the Boyes Bath House) of Boyes Springs were in the city on Friday of last week. Their visit was for the purpose of purchasing the lumber to build the fence around the new ball park, which has been laid out for the use of the Seals, who will do their spring training there.”
This is probably the field that endured until the 1950s. It was also very close to the Boyes Bath House. The land was surrounded by the Olive Grove subdivision in 1947 (see map),and completely subsumed by housing in the following decade. Originally named Fetters Field, it later became Lichtenberg Field. Today, De Chene Ave. roughly follows the old outfield fence.
The Seals weren’t the only team to train at Boyes Hot Springs. In 1950 the Twin Falls farm team of the Yankees were there; in 1951, the Oakland Oaks. The Index Tribune put the story of their arrival on the front page, with a photo of manager Mel Ott. Since one of the original attractions for teams was the healthful waters, it was natural that some players would endorse the product. The Oakland Tribune showed two Oaks pitchers enjoying Boyes Springs mineral water after a workout in 1947.
Some of the major leaguers who came to the valley for training ended up settling there. One such was Sam Agnew.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, “Sam Agnew is best remembered for being the catcher for both of Babe Ruth’s pitching victories in the 1918 World Series.” Agnew started in baseball with the Vernon team of PCL in 1912. His Major League debut came with the St. Louis Browns in 1913. He started as catcher for the Browns through 1915, when he was traded to the Red Sox. While a St. Louis player he had the distinction of being called out while sitting in the dugout: the team was found to be batting out of order and he was supposed to at the plate at the time.
Agnew opened a service station in Boyes Springs in 1935. It was at the corner of Vallejo St. and the Highway (where the Barking Dog parking lot is today.) Agnew died in 1951 in Sonoma.
AND THAT’S JUST A SAMPLE! STAY TUNED…
Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society. All others as noted or Author’s collection.
“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.