Agua Caliente, Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, Fetters Hot Springs, Now and Then, Photographs, Resorts, Wonders and Marvels

“Picturing the Springs”-an exhibit at the Depot Park Museum in Sonoma

Opening September 10, 2022

In a sense, this exhibit is a follow-up to Michael Acker’s book “The Springs, Resort Towns of Sonoma Valley,” (Arcadia Publishing, 2017) with many more photographs and ephemera, and in color. Here is a small preview.





Thanks to the Sonoma Valley Historical Society for assistance, especially Lorrie Baetge Fulton, Patricia Cullinan, Kate Shertz, Peter Meyerhoff, Roy Tennant, and Lynn Downey, and for images, and access to the Index Tribune archive.

Thanks also to the many community members who have shared their memories and photographs with the author.

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Boyes Hot Springs, History, Place Names/Street Names, Resorts

Historic Walking Tour of Central Boyes Hot Springs

Walking Tour Map. The tour is centered on the “Hotel Grounds” subdivision, which contains the site of the original resort and the present Sonoma Mission Inn.

Some day we will organize actual tour groups to take this walk. In the mean time, there is the map and a book of the tour. Please see https://mca-studios.com/recent-work/ for each page of the book and a short video. (Click on the page images to magnify.)

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Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, History, Photographs, Resorts, Springs Historic Photo Database

New to the Valley of the Moon Historic Photo Database March 2021

Circa 1910. Looking northeast from the hotel. The depot is about in the center. To the left is the club house. The arbor is at center left. In the foreground you can see some wonderful faces. As you know from newspaper accounts, the crowds were very large in the summer. Courtesy of Ron Price.
“Hotel Promenade and Driveway, Boyes Calif.” I think the arbor seen in the first photo is at the right side here. No crowd, just three strolling women. The photographer was C. R. Payne. Courtesy of Ron Price.
Saint Francis villa was near Verdiers Resort in El Verano. Courtesy Ron Price.
Sonoma Creek at Sonoma Grove Resort, 1911. Acker collection.
El Verano Amphitheater. 1950s. At the site of Maxwell Farms on Verano Avenue. I have no information on this establishment. Courtesy Sonoma Valley Historical Society.
Larson’s Sport Shop and Liquor Store, 1950s. Booze and hunting equipment are no longer sold in the same store! This is the current location of the Barking Dog Roasters in Boyes Hot Springs. Photo courtesy of the Larson family.
Evergreen Cottages was on Pine Avenue on Boyes. The buildings still stand. This looks to be from the 1940s. Dig the crazy colors. Acker collection
Ferrando’s Plumbing at Highway 12 and Thompson Ave. 2005. So much has changed since 2005! Photo by M. Acker
Sonoma Valley Grange #407, 2005. When the sidewalks went in, the front entrance was removed. That wall now sports the famous mural by su servidor. Photo by M. Acker

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

The Ideal Resort

According to the 2005 Historical Resources Compliance Report for the Highway 12 Phase Two Corridor Project of County Redevelopment (whew!) The Ideal Resort was built some time around 1910 by Anton and Helen Schaffer who, in 1919, sold to Joseph and Margaret Weiss.

The Schaeffer’s were active resort developers in the early days.

The Schafer’s and the Weiss’ were Austrian immigrants, like the Weghoffer family and Leixner, who also had businesses in Fetters Hot Springs. {See Liexner }.

A Northwest Pacific Railroad brochure from the 1910s described the resort this way: “At Fetter’s Springs, three minutes’ walk from the Northwestern Pacific Depot, and ten minutes walk to Boyes, Fetters, and Caliente Hot Springs, where there are large swimming tanks….No expense has been spared to make this place a pleasure ground. Large, sanitary and well ventilated rooms, sleeping porches or tents,…Mrs. Weiss has established a reputation for her excellent Hungarian cooking.”

From the NWPRR brochure, circa 1917

The Weiss’ ran the resort until 1934. Between 1935 and 1941, the property changed hands several times.  Joseph Weiss died in 1935. The IT gave him a front page obit, calling him  a “pioneer resort man.” The obit noted that he was born in Austria-Hungary in 1868.

In 1946, Ray and Florence Loper took over, renaming the place the Floray Auto Court. The Lopers sold in 1958 but the name persisted in to the 70s.

Plan of the resort from the 2005 Report

The 2005 Report noted that the Ideal Resort was “one of many small, family owned resorts in the Springs district. Small resorts such as this allowed families and people of lesser means to participate in the resort life previously enjoyed by the affluent. They plays an integral part in the historical development of this area. This property is a good representative of the Springs resort era. There are few small, road-side resorts from the early part of the century left in the Springs area, and non retain the degrees of integrity that this resort does.  Therefore, National Register Criterion A and California Register Criterion 1 are met.” In 2005. As with so many historic structures in the Springs, alteration or demolition proceeded before consideration of historic value could be contemplated.

The buildings were rehabbed in the 2010s. They remain, but very highly altered.

Main House, 2008
Main House, 2020

In 1924, this ad appeared in the Index Tribune. The assortment of goods for sale gives pause.

Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society. Photos by or from the collection of the author.

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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?

BaronBankrupt1923

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

ACSpringsDiningRoom

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

BoyesPoolsnapshot

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

KoenigisStore1914

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.

SonomaProperties

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

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