El Verano, History, mid-century, People, Resorts

Dutil/French Cottages/Verdier’s

The “French Colony” of Sonoma Valley included the Dutil, Lounibos, and Verdier families. The Lounibos’ arrived from France in 1873, the Dutils and Verdiers in 1893. (A different Verdier family came from France to San Francisco in 1850. They founded the City of Paris department store.)

By 1900 Jean and Anna Dutil were running a boarding house in El Verano, and improving it. “J. Dutil received a carload of lumber here Monday with which he will build a five room annex to his private boarding house in this place,”  wrote the Index Tribune.  After construction was complete, “Doc Wilson is painting J. Dutil’s villa. The colors are red white and blue.”

In 1902 “Mons J. Dutil, mine host of the French Cottage [as it was now called] will commence the erection of a large hotel in this place in a few days.”

Mrs. Anna Dutil died in 1943. According to the IT, she was 80 years old and came from Lyon France “fifity years ago,” ie, 1893.  “she and her husband founded the French Cottage, one Sonoma Valley’s first summer resorts, now Verdier’s.”

Post marked 1912.

According to historian Joan Lounibos, the Verdiers, Paul and his wife, worked for the Dutils at the boarding house, and, by 1922, they were the proprietors. “Mr. and Mrs. P. Verdier of the popular resort, the French Cottage, are making many improvements about the grounds, laying out beautiful gardens, painting the different buildings and getting ready for the coming season.”

By 1929, the resort was called Verdier’s. In the spring of that year, the Young Ladies Institute “enjoyed a bounteous repast at Verdier’s French cottage. The tables were beautifully decorated with daffodils and smilax, and the menu was elaborate, with chicken, ravioli and French pastry.”

1930s

1939-Paul Verdier makes more improvements

Paul Verdier died in 1945. His daughter and her husband, John Piro, take over and manage the resort until 1962. During this period, the resort was extensively photographed by Zan Stark. Several elaborate brochures were produced also.

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Art, Boyes Hot Springs, Entertainment, Resorts, Valley of the Moon Main Stem Project

Coney Island

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Mr. Wolf Baron (sometimes Wulf Barron) announced the construction of the Coney Island resort on his tract of land in Boyes Hot Springs in December of 1922. Construction started in January 1923. The Index Tribune described it this way: “Sonoma Valley’s amusement park and tent city modeled after one of the leading resorts of southern California has been started. The park project is being financed by Wulf Barron (sic) and is being built on the 39 acre tract owned by Barron at Verano. There will be 30 summer cottages to occupy the shady bands of Sonoma creek, swimming pool, children’s playgrounds, etc. On the highway there will be a big amusement hall for dancing and pictures, restaurant, bowling alley and modern gasoline service station.”

Then in July: “The $100,000 amusement park at Verano[1] had scarcely opened its doors before financial troubles loomed. The Patriarchs’ Militant Band[2], who played at the opening, first attached the place, but their attachment has been lifted. Among local creditors are a lumber company and hardware firm.”

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[1] Boundaries between communities in the Springs are and have been flexible. Baron’s Villa Tract, on the Highway just north of Agua Caliente Creek, is considered to be in Boyes Hot Springs today. Rosenthal’s Resort, opposite Baron’s, was also sometimes placed in Verano. However, on maps it appears that Verano is on the south side of Agua Caliente Creek. See maps.

[2] I wonder what they were militant about?

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The paper was not shy about touting Harry Fine’s “pull” with the sheriff’s office. Cigarettes were cheap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Things got so bad for Wolf Baron, that rumors circulated that he had been confined to Napa State Hospital. These were unfounded.

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Baron was out of the picture, but Coney Island was still a popular venue, this time for “pictures.” In September of 1923, film producer, director, actor and flimflam artist Harold “Josh” Binney leased Coney Island for the headquarters of his company, which was supposed to turn Sonoma into Hollywood North. He started work on a proposed series of silent comedies, but, after cashing a bad check, he decamped to Montana. Evading extradition to California, he was instead arrested and tried in Montana for a similar scheme. After serving time in Montana, he went on to have a long career in Hollywood including directing Cab Calloway in “Hi De Ho” in 1947. The film Binney shot before his departure is an important historical archive of Sonoma Valley. (More to come on Mr. Binney.)

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Now the parking lot of Mary’s Pizza

The intrigue continued in 1924 when a Mrs. Soito filed a slander suit against Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith, who were the caretakers at Coney Island at the time.

“A rift in the lute (?!sic!) of this year’s Boyes Springs Carnival when rivalry in the queen contest broke up the committees and led to open warfare between the contestants…” a scenario worthy of Christopher Guest. (and what does “a rift in the lute” mean?)

“Mrs. Soito, who is the mother of Harriet Hunt, one of the pretty little girls who was out for queen, alleges in a complaint filed at Santa Rosa, that Mrs. Smith, mother of the dancer and the May-pole queen defamed her in a conversation to which there were witnesses.”

Originally Mrs. Smith was charged with disturbing the peace for a dustup at Flowery School. She pled guilty and received a suspended sentence. The Smith’s were said to be “experienced show people.” And Mrs. Soito “a member of a prominent family of Contra Costs county.”

In 1924, the Sonoma Valley Athletic Club was promoting boxing matches in the Pavillion.

In 1925 there were dances under the auspices of local bigshot Louis Parente.

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Apparently Parente gave up on the resort soon after.

The annex to the pavilion burned in 1927, and in 1928 the pavilion itself was destroyed by fire, “and now only ashes tell the tale of the venture of a San Franciso tailor went into and failed,” the Index Tribune said. (Baron was one of several tailors, most of then Viennese, who came to the valley from the City to pursue their trades and other businesses. See the post https://springsmuseum.org/2019/05/27/leixner-nimpfer-weghofer/

The IT also tells us “The Coney Island site has been one with a history of ill luck. Twenty years ago (1909) a beautiful massive structure, known as Marble Hall, was put up there, and it mysteriously burned shortly after construction. The marble pillars stood for many years, a monument of the enterprise that went up in smoke.” The pillars can be seen in the photograph of the Binney studio, and several can still be found a sites around the valley.

By 1931 the Baron tract had been subdivided into building lots and houses were constructed.

And there our story ends, pending new finds.

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Collage 32 H from the Valley of the Moon Main Stem Project, Michael Acker artist. Dimensions approx 45″x14″

Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society.

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Agua Caliente, Boyes Hot Springs, Photographs, Resorts, Springs Historic Photo Database

New to the Springs Historic Photo Database

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1916. Gaslights possibly converted to electricity, which came in in 1913.

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Date unknown. The pool was covered in the 1950s.

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1914. The viewer is standing approximately where the parking lot behind the post office is now. The red building on the right is Graham’s Store, the location of the first post office in Boyes.

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18340 sonoma Highway. burned down in 1979. See the post “The Greengrass Bldg.”

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Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, History, nature, Resorts

The Arroyo of Arroyo Road

“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…”

“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.”

From The Lure of the Local, by Lucy Lippard.

It’s all about paying attention.

Susan Sontag

 

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New Map:

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“Open water” is represented by the dotted brown line. The dark blue is the storm sewer which starts at Central and Verde Vista and ends in the Sonoma Mission Inn grounds. Map courtesy of Sonoma County.

 

The course of the seasonal Lily Creek starts somewhere in the open space above Monterey Ave. (in the “Mountain Avenue Canyon”), goes under the street at Central and Verde Vista, travels below ground along Verde Vista, pops up at the corner of Verde Vista and Arroyo, ducks under again then is visible curling around the foundation of a house on Las Lomas, then parallels Arroyo Rd. traveling through back yards.

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In the open space, looking towards Mountain Avenue.

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Looking northeast from the corner of Central and Monterey towards the top of the drainage, circa 1910.

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At Central Verde Vista, a complicated bit of engineering.

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After the rains, December 2019

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The creek runs under Verde Vista and pops up briefly at Arroyo Road

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The majestic stone work of the old Larson Villa guards the creek’s appearance at the corner of Arroyo Rd. and Verde Vista

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On Las Lomas.

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In 2009 a property owner put the section of creek through the lot near Vallejo and Arroyo underground. Although this was engineered and done with county permits, the work constricted the watercourse and provided a place at its head for brush and debris to pile up, blocking flow. This has remained a problem.

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Flooding, February 2019

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July 2019

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February 2019

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West of Vallejo St, the bed goes through the yards of three houses, and then dives under Highway 12 at Arroyo.

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The original Mary’s pizza Shack at Arroyo Rd. and Highway 12. The creek was undergrounded here in the 1980s. The old concrete guardrail at the creek can be seen in both photos.

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Entrance to the Sonoma Mission Inn, 2019

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Entrance to the Sonoma Mission Inn, circa 1950. Photo by Zan Stark.

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On the other side of the highway it enters the grounds of the Sonoma Mission Inn. It is first seen there where a large grate covers the entrance. This was put into place, so it’s said, to keep miscreants from crawling through the culvert and into the grounds. It daylights briefly near the swimming pool, then disappears into the brush.

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Just west of the SMI it takes a turn to the south, paralleling Happy Lane and Sonoma Creek. It crosses West Thomson near Happy Lane, behind the Ratto place, skirts the end of Academy Lane and then Fairview Lane, and enters Agua Caliente Creek near the Finnish American Heritage Association (Old Maple St.)

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Lilly Creek behind the Ratto place, where it goes under West Thomson.

It’s curious that what is essentially an east-west water course would turn south very close to Sonoma Creek.

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Behind FAHA, near Sonoma Creek.

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Sonoma Creek near its confluence with Agua Caliente Creek and Lily Creek and the bridge between Verano and El Verano.

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I like to think that the bullfrog photographed in 1922, “near El Verano,” was found somewhere under the “Bridge between Verano and El Verano.”

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Addendum 2

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Courtesy Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46299918

 

Tracy Irwin Storer was a biologist, not an artist or a poet or a historian, but a trained observer nonetheless. He thought it was worthwhile to note, in 1922, that “the French bullfrogs for sale,” he found near Boyes Hot Springs, “had been caught locally, along the creek, by two small boys.” Posterity thanks him for that evocative snapshot.

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Thanks to Dan Levitis for showing me how to find field notes from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Addendum 3, December 20, 2019

 

Photos from author’s collection. Index Tribune courtesy of Sonoma Valley Historical Society.

 

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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 interpretation 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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Newly discovered photo of patrons relaxing at Vienna Garden Cafe.

 

 

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